The candidates for California's 2010 governor's race may be at the starting block, but so far they have failed to bring concrete budget solutions to the state's $24 billion deficit. Oddly enough, Republicans have been slightly more daring than Democrats, but no candidate has come close to presenting proposals that would bridge the massive gap.
Among Republicans, Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO, would cut 10 percent of the state's workforce, or about 35,000 employees. At $100,000 per employee (including benefits), that comes to $3.5 billion. Bad math for a Harvard MBA. Tom Campbell edges a wee bit closer with a 32 cent per gallon gasoline tax, which would bring in $6 billion, or a quarter of the total needed. So much for the economist's calculations. Steve Poizner gets the fuzzy-math award by saying he'd plug the gap by reforming the tax code and regulatory structure. Do we really think those changes will save $24 billion?
Democrats have been even less willing to enter the discussion. Former governor Jerry Brown, now the attorney general, says there's no reason to discuss the issue 18 months before the election, a rather bizarre form of stewardship. And Gavin Newsom just points to his management of San Francisco as a role model, ignoring the world of difference between a city of 700,000 people and a state of 38,000,000 people.
The bottom line is this: Not a single candidate to date has offered any realistic solutions, no doubt because each would find more detractors than supporters. Haven't we already played this "anything but candor" game with Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Californians may not unpopular solutions to the state's mess, but we're a whole lot more likely to appreciate the truth. Leadership includes courage. It's time for each candidate to present a workable plan.
Larry Gerston, a professor at San Jose State University, has written several books on California politics, is a political analyst for NBC Bay Area.