Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate for California Governor, has announced that once in office, she’s going to take on the biggest cause of the state’s nearly $20 billion deficit: the public employee unions. As a billionaire who is self-funding her campaign, she’s not beholden to any special interest, which will give her a free hand to cut at least 40,000 state jobs and renegotiate the lavish and unsustainable benefits and pension plans that are bankrupting the state.
Good for Meg! Good for her for announcing that she’ll go after the unions NOW—before the election—rather than after she’s elected. That takes guts. But voters want honesty and no BS, and they want someone to come in and do what they say they’re going to do to fix the state’s public finances.
In this sense, she’s following the lead of NJ Governor Chris Christie, who, over the past few months, has gone through very bruising and public battles with the unions in NJ—-and won. The cases are similar: when Christie entered office, NJ actually had a worse budget deficit relative to its budget than any other state, including CA. That god-awful reality left him with no choice.
The same fate is going to befall the next CA Governor. The states simply cannot keep up all of this explosive public spending. Christie went after all of the unions, and they predictably and fiercely pushed back—especially the powerful teachers’ union. But he stuck to his guns and prevailed, slashing budgets across the board and keeping his job approval numbers intact at the same time. Many Democrats in NJ went along—again, because there is no choice. Democrats in NY and other states are caving too. It’s amazing how an empty checking account can focus the mind.
This is one of those rare moments when voters are rejecting big spending and entitlements and want leaders who are going to bring it all under control—in spite of the pain. Wouldn’t it be incredible if two of the nation’s bluest states—NJ and CA—lead the way in fiscal responsibility and conservative governance? Meg: you go, girl!
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