First and foremost, we congratulate Senator-elect Sam Blakeslee on his victory in Tuesday’s special election. While it wasn’t unexpected — the results roughly mirrored the primary returns — the win nonetheless is a significant milestone in Blakeslee’s political career.
Now comes the hard part.
With a state budget 50 days overdue, the Republican lawmaker — along with his colleagues in the Legislature — must get to work plugging a $19 billion budget shortfall that grows by the day.
But the senator-elect doesn’t want to stop there.
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During the campaign, Blakeslee repeatedly committed to passing a budget with lasting reforms, including a spending cap and a “rainy-day” fund. He also called for reform of the tax code.
We believe Blakeslee was absolutely correct in gauging the public’s disgust with the way Sacramento has been doing business. His portrayal of his opponent, Democrat John Laird, as an irresponsible tax-and-spender may indeed have struck a nerve that helped send Blakeslee to office.
But now that the campaign is over, it’s time to put the partisan rhetoric aside in favor of a more reasoned, moderate approach.
We don’t expect — nor do we want — Blakeslee to turn his back on his Republican ideals, including fiscal conservatism. But if he is to have any success achieving his ambitious goal of lasting budget reform, that’s going to require compromise and strong bipartisanship.
Coming off a highly negative campaign, it may be hard to envision Blakeslee now stepping into the role of bipartisan deal-broker, but he has been able to build consensus in the past.
We also find it encouraging that Blakeslee has backed off his inflexible “no new taxes” mantra of years past. The only pledge he makes now, he told us, is to make no more pledges.
That’s a sensible approach. While no one wants new taxes, the stubborn refusal by some Republicans to even consider that as an option has only contributed to the mess in Sacramento.
We agree with Blakeslee that genuine, lasting budget reform is long overdue in Sacramento — let’s hope our newly elected state senator can help deliver it.