The Big State Rumble
This election isn't just red vs. blue, it's California vs. Texas: Who's right?
The rivalry between the country's two most populous states has moved way beyond the baseball field this fall.
While Governor Rick Perry has targeted President Obama in his re-election campaign, California politicians have set their sights on the Lone Star state.
The central issue emerged when Proposition 23 made its way to the ballot, an initiative that would suspend the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 until the unemployment rate in California is 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters. The Global Warming Solutions Act, also known as AB-32, pledged to reduce greenhouse emission levels in the state to 1990 levels by 2020, a decrease of 15 percent from current levels.
Interstate tensions came out when it was publicized that Texas oil companies Valero and Tesoro, both based in San Antonio, had supplied the initial funding to collect signatures and to date have spent $7.5 million in the campaign, with Sugar Land's CVR Energy Inc. adding another $150,000.
This has led those against the proposition, including Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and a host of environmental and alternative energy groups, to define the fight as California's interest versus the bottom line for Texas oil companies.
Or to put it simply, California vs. Texas.
They've even subverted the Texas anti-litter slogan for the battle, declaring "Don't Mess With California," and made a video where stereotypical Californian David Arquette is kidnapped by Texas thugs, but beats them up rather than vote "yes" on Prop. 23.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, held a Texas barbecue in the capital encouraging voters to protect their state from "Texas polluters."
But the issue has crystallized an ideological debate between two of the biggest economic and political powerhouses in the country.
Lately Texas has come out on top based on every available economic metric. Texas has gained 129,000 new jobs this year, while California lost 112,000. And Texas lures companies with low tax rates, limited regulation, weak unions and a lower minimum wage and cost of living.
But while California's budget crisis has received national attention — state legislators finally nailed together a budget this month that only somewhat addresses the $19.1 billion shortfall — Texas is looking at a $25 billion shortfall in January. At a quarter of total state spending, it's bigger in both number and percentage than the California crisis.
Texas is also lagging in education — ranked lowest in the nation by Brookings — and health care, and that's before the budget cuts come into play.
So which is better? Maybe we should listen to someone without a dog in the fight. As The Economist said in 2009:
"The truth is that both states could learn from each other. Texas still lacks California’s great universities and lags in terms of culture. California could adopt not just Texas’s leaner state, but also its more bipartisan approach to politics and its more welcoming attitude towards Mexico. There is no perfect model of government: it is America’s genius to have 50 public-policy laboratories competing to find out what works best. But, to give Texas some credit ... at this moment America’s two most futuristic states look a lot more like equals than ever before."
Watch David Arquette mess with Texas: