Here's a specific, yes-or-not question that the gubernatorial candidates need to be asked: Jerry and Meg, will you extend the Arnold tax hikes? And if not, how do you plan to find another $8 billon in budget cuts?
The "Arnold tax hikes", as I call them (I'm sure the governor himself would not approve of that characterization), are the temporary increases in sales and income taxes (as well as the vehicle license fee) passed by the legislature and signed by the governor as part of a February 2009 budget deal. They are due to expire next year; they would have lasted two years longer, but voters turned down the opportunity to extend them in the May 2009 special election.
Extending the tax hikes makes budget sense. One Republican policy guru, who requested anonymity so that Tea Party types don't egg his house, suggests that letting these tax hikes expire would blow at least an $8 billion additional hole in the annual budget -- on top of the persistent multi-billion dollar deficits. It's a safe bet that, if they were administered doses of truth serum, both Whitman and Brown would want those tax increases extended (though they'd rather someone else--like the current governor--did the extending).
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But coming out for tax increases is a political non-starter; both candidates have opposed tax increases (with Brown adding the all-important caveat that he would be for tax increases that voters specifically approved). And both candidates have failed to offer specific plans for balancing the budget (Whitman has a policy plan but it doesn't get deep into the budget weeds; Brown doesn't have any kind of budget plan, at least one that he's sharing with the public).
So one way to pin them down is to ask them this very specific question about a real choice that they will confront the next governor: whether to extend the temporary taxes. Reporters may have to ask the question more than once, I suspect that the first few times it's posed, Jerry and Meg will pretend they didn't hear it.