Today voters in California will go to the polls to decide the fate of six ballot propositions, four of which would raise taxes on Californians. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has pushed heavily for all six ballot measures which are designed to close the state’s $15 billion budget shortfall. But even though Schwarzenegger’s legacy depends on the passage of these initiatives, he will not be in California tonight to see the results. The Los Angeles Times reports: “His absence in the face of widely forecast defeat drew mockery from his foes.”

Instead Schwarzenegger will be in Washington, DC, where he is scheduled to join President Barack Obama at the White House to celebrate the federal adoption of auto emissions standards that mirror standards previously adopted by California. The Los Angeles Times describes this as “a win for California.” That may be. But it is a loss for the rest of the nation. And it may be just the first of many.

For decades California has been a leader in public policy innovation. A generation ago, California was at the forefront of a taxpayer revolt that eventually helped elect President Ronald Reagan and ushered in three decades of prosperity. California is still exporting its public policy ideas. But this time those ideas spell doom for the rest of the nation. In 2006 Schwarzenegger signed into law the toughest global warming regulations of any state. It is no accident that the author of current federal global warming legislation, Rep. Harry Waxman (D-CA), hails from California. So how is California’s experiment with a “green economy” going?

California  imports more energy than any state in the country and as a result has some of the highest energy costs in the country, including the second highest commercial sector energy prices (only ocean bound Hawaii has higher rates). California’s unemployment rate hit 9.3% in December 2008, up from 4.9% in December 2006. There are now 1.5 million Californians out of work. The state has the fourth-highest housing foreclosure rate in the nation, has lost more businesses than any state in recent years, and is facing a $40 billion deficit. In some small towns unemployment is now running close to 40%.

And at what benefit to the environment? None. All economic pain for zero environmental gain; that is the exact same formula the Waxman-Markey energy tax legislation offers the United States. It’s been a disaster for California. It would be a disaster for the nation.

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