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Wednesday, October 08, 2003
ARNOLD WINS!

A new blockbuster in demagoguery. What can I say? He may no longer be the box-office draw, but he's a ballot-box draw. I made at least three predictions prior to yesterday's election:

1. The election would be closer than the polls predicted

WRONG. Well, no, actually I was partially right here. Remember, back on 29 Sep, CNN issued poll results showing support for the recall at 63%. At last check on CNN, with 97% of precincts reporting, the Recall was ahead 53-47%. On the replacement end, however, their poll showed Schwarzenegger ahead 40-25%, which I thought was equally ridiculous. In fact, right now, Schwarzenegger holds a 48-32% lead over Bustamante. I expected that gap to narrow.

2. Voting would be a fiasco with much confusion and frustration over the punch card ballots.

WRONG. No media reports about this, anyway. In fact, just the contrary. Most the news story emphasized the orderliness and ease with which voters were voting. In any event, the election is not tight enough to make this a factor.

3. It could take weeks or months to ascertain a clear winner and certify the results.

WRONG. I was expecting (hoping) for a dead-heat on the recall measure. The New York Times offers a nice interactive presentation of the results. Another red/blue map -- though, with this one, there are actually some blue areas where a civilized person might actually want to live.

Of course, during the campaign, Schwarzenegger offered no answer to the question of how he would resolve the budget crisis. He hinted that he might go after Indian gaming -- but can he tax reservation casinos? He also promised to repeal the car tax, but as the Arnold-friendly San Diego Union-Tribune pointed out, that would double the projected deficit for next year. Some issues I'll be watching:

1. Budget Deficit

The New York Times had an article this morning about the poisonous partisan atmosphere in the state capitol. S has painted himself into something of a corner by promising not to raise taxes and to roll back the vehicle tax. An economic recovery would help, but even that won't bail him out completely. Meaning, he's going to have to make some tough cuts. He may be lucky in that he has a Democrat-controlled legislature to blame when his budget doesn't balance. Look for detioration in infrastructure spending, educational spending (though much of this, I guess, is mandated), and for all those middle-class voters in Orange and San Diego County who voted for Arnold: more fee increases at the state universities their kids are attending! Which brings us to #2....

2. Taxes

Nowadays we call them user fees or special assessments, but usually that's just a euphemism for a regressive tax. As Joe Klein wrote of Clinton at the end of his presidency, Clinton didn't take from the rich and give to the poor. He took from the rich and gave to the middle class. Since the end of Clinton's administration, Republicans have been giving back to the rich (while trying to avoid taking anything away from the middle class.) But at the state level, where deficit spending is not an option, the conflicts between middle-class entitlement and upper class avarice will surface much sooner. UC fees are one of the more conspicuous bellwethers. Also look for increased parking meter fees and higher parking ticket penalties as the financial burden continues to get shifted on to municipalities. In San Diego, we like to raise the hotel room tax.

3. Coastal Protection

S received a lot of donations from developers who would like to see the California Coastal Commission dismantled. Bad news for environmental protection. How much of the budget whole can developer fees fill in? Not much. And it's only a short-term solution, with hidden, long-term costs.

4. Indian Gaming

What were all those Arnold ads attacking Native American tribes about anyway? As an attack on Bustamante, they seemed a little too subtle, or indirect, for the average voter. Can California tax Indian gaming revenues? I imagine it's a huge federal case if it tries. I remember tribes had to get an initiative passed to allow gaming in-state. Perhaps S can only threaten to campaign to revoke the privilege, in which case they may call his bluff -- or just promise to throw some campaign donations his way. I'll have to look this up -- or, well, I won't. If it becomes an issue, I trust I'll read about it in one of the Times.

5. Return of the Energy Crisis

If this happens, it should be interesting.

Perhaps the cruelest thing a cynical observer of this election could have wished for is for things to have turned out in exactly the way they have.