Nearly six in ten statewide voters believes Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will leave the state in worse shape than when he first took office in 2003, according to the latest Field Poll. Given the Golden State's robust unemployment and intractable budget politics, the results aren't all that surprising.
But taken in light of Schwarzenegger's brash, braggart campaign against then Gov. Gray Davis, the numbers comprise a huge “fail” for a man who once said he would settle the state's debt and stop it's deficit spending. In his first “state of the state” address, Schwarzenegger said, “Never again will government be allowed to spend money it doesn't have. Never again will the state be allowed to borrow money to pay for its operating expenses.”
After six successive years of deficit spending much greater than that under Davis' watch, California is facing another $20 billion budget gap for 2010, with $72 billion in debt that has has inspired the lowest credit rating of any state.
Of course, it's not all Schwarzenegger's fault. A Democratically controlled legislature with more sacred-cows than exist in India hasn't really helped much. But more than that, California's initiative process has tied the hands of leadership when it comes to huge chunks of state spending while limiting property taxes via Prop. 13. The housing crash has exacerbated the state's cash flow problems.
At the same time, while once calling state Democrats “girly men” and pointing to the ineffectiveness of Davis, Schwarzenegger has repeatedly promised to change all that — and he has repeatedly failed.
And so, the Field Poll revealed over the weekend that the governor is enjoying a 27 percent approval rating, a tie with his previous low. At the same time, 72 percent of voters disapprove of the legislature's performance, too.