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Arnold's Bull

The Los Angeles Times reports that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sent a gag gift, literally, to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg as wrangling over the budget began in earnest last week.

The gift--a metal sculpture of bull testicles, "came with a note suggesting the lawmaker would need them to make some tough budget choices." Steinberg returned the gift "with a sober note on the fortitude needed to protect society's vulnerable from the budget ax."

Apparently the two have sent each other joke gifts before. According to the Times, "Steinberg had earlier sent the governor a basket of garden-variety mushrooms ... after Schwarzenegger called Senate budget proposals 'hallucinatory'."

Meantime, the Governor is busy Tweeting about the crisis, encouraging voters to go to his Waste Watchers site to report ways to cut state spending, as well as check out a budget balancing calculator on the LA Times web site.

Reader David K. did just that and wrote me:

"It's clear that closing the gap with cuts alone is probably a tall order. Good luck, Arnie. Joel Kotkin's observations about the CA tax mix were right on, and it was a good article. I loathe the idea of tax hikes, but at the risk of ending all hope for my political career, the three ideas below could help. These three hikes raise $5.5B -- about 23% of the gap -- and leave lots of Californians with mere flesh wounds.

Prop 13 -- leaving residential untouched but allowing commercial property to rise. Adds $2B. Assumes businesses are in a better position to pass on cost increases than residents are to absorb them.

Increasing cigarette tax $1.50/pack. Adds $1.2B (reduced health care costs thru attrition a bonus?)

Increasing alcohol tax $0.20/drink. Adds $2.3B.

The fact that reducing state worker costs and legislative salaries isn't on the table is mind-boggling to me. It's hard to make tough calls without some skin in the game."

By the way, David also had me laughing with his response to the PETA outrage over the Presidential fly trap (fly flap?) story:

"It begs the question: where does it stop? 'PETA goes after Purell for killing 99.9% of all bacteria on contact.'"

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