January 10, 2008

Governors and Hard Times

On the recommendation of an FSU professor, I'm reading an old volume studying the prospects and pitfalls of the class of governors that took office in 1990. Governors & Hard Times is edited by Thad Beyle, a professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It was published by Congressional Quarterly Press in 1992. I just finished reading about J. Fife Symington III, the sometime governor of Arizona.

Now I'm onto Pete Wilson, the much ballyhooed governor of California. Like most people familiar with Wilson, I knew about his stances on immigration reform and the controversial ballot propositions that flowed from them. But I had no idea he faced such a budget crunch when he came into office in 1990.

California's projected budget deficit for the 1991-1992 fiscal year was $14.3 billion.

Governor Chiles' budget balancing was connected to the nationwide recession that sunk George Bush Sr.'s re-election campaign in 1992. When the plant closes in Cleveland, no more trip to Disney World. I'm willing to bet that nearly all the nation's 50 governors had to settle accounts painfully between 1990 and 1993. That's the challenging of describing the Chiles experience vividly and to a big audience. There are lots of things about the Florida budget that are NOT unique. They must be ignored in favor of Chiles' personality, his management style, and the state's love affair sales tax exemptions, loopholes, and other "turkeys."

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