Forget all the talk about whether one Republican will provide the crucial 27th vote in the state senate to pass the massive budget compromise of tax hikes, spending cuts and borrowing. Whether the compromise passes or not, the majority of Republican lawmakers have made their views clear this weekend.

They would rather California fall into the sea than vote for a tax increase.

No one can say they don’t have the courage of their convictions. Their position certainly must be sincere.

It’s also insane.

Republicans, and all Californians for that matter, need to remember that things didn’t have to be this way. Republican lawmakers have a Republican governor who has, like it or not, taken command of the political center in this state. Yes, he has many failings, and, yes, you can’t always trust him. But for the last five years, the governor has offered Republican lawmakers an extraordinary opportunity to join him in the center, gain power, and help reform and rebuild a state that needs both. Republicans would not have gotten all they wanted—they’re the minority party. But they would have been part of a great, historic effort in this state.

Instead, they have chosen – yes, it’s been their choice – to sabotage this governor and this state’s opportunity to rebuild and reform. They’ve been more committed to opposing taxes than to governing. This is tragic. And believe me, history won’t be kind. When people look back at Schwarzenegger’s governorship, they’ll remember that Arnold was undone not only by his own mistakes but also by the self-destructive obstructionism of his very own party. And for generations, people will wonder: what were those guys thinking?

Let’s be clear on what these lawmakers believe:

-These self-styled defenders of the taxpayer would rather burn millions of taxpayer dollars in the street (that’s essentially what the state has to do in this cash crunch, with short-term borrowing from the markets, borrowing from special funds, and the interest on IOUs) than agree to any package that includes tax increases.

-They would rather violate the will of the voters, who have cast ballots to sell bonds to fund all kinds of priorities – infrastructure, stem cell research, high-speed rail, children’s hospitals, than support a tax increase. In the cash crunch that Republicans have sought to prolong, the state has been unable to sell voter-authorized bonds. (Remember that the next time you hear a Republican politician talk about trusting the people).

-They would rather throw away a chance to get key agenda items – including changes in the corporate tax and in environmental laws that Democrats would never agree to under normal circumstances – than support a tax increase.

-They would rather let the state default on its obligations, ruin its credit rating and establish a national, business-killing reputation as an economic basketcase than support a tax increase.

This is “destroy the village to save the village” logic. And before you email me with chapter and verse — Yes, raising taxes in a recession is a horrible idea. So is cutting spending, particularly on crucial programs in education. And so is a plan that relies on billions in new borrowing at the time of a credit crisis. And yes, the Democrats are mostly as bad as the Republicans say – they’re beholden to unions and other spending interests, they’ve refused to adopt badly needed political and budget reforms, they’ve helped put the state in this terrible position.

But at this moment, the terrible budget compromise is the only option on the table. And the state is out of time. It’s running out of cash and is unable to meet all its obligations. California has less than $6 in cash for every $10 it has in bills.

Republican lawmakers, dishonestly, deny this inconvenient fact. They also deny their responsibility for the current predicament. To listen to them, you’d think that Republicans have nothing to do with California’s budget problems, that the $40 billion projected shortfall is all the product of Democratic overspending.

To the contrary, the GOP, exploiting California’s 2/3 requirement for passing a budget or tax increases, has dominated the budget debate for years and defined the terms of the annual budget bills that have helped bring us into this mess. (The collapsing economy is also responsible). Republican lawmakers have gone along with spending increases (which GOP legislators now denounce as overspending). The Republicans have simply refused to vote for the tax increases necessary to pay for the spending they support. The dirty secret is that Republican policymakers liked this structural deficit – it served as an unofficial spending limit, they believed, by providing a drag on spending increases.

GOP leaders in this state, if they had any interest in using their leverage to govern the state responsibly, would have bargained for a spending limit in exchange for tax increases in good economic times, when the tax hikes needed to fix the state’s structural deficit would have dealt the economy less of a blow. But they didn’t. Now, they are shocked, shocked that anyone would think of raising taxes in a recession. When you vote for spending without enough revenues in the good times, what do you think is going to happen when the economy turns bad?

A political party that adopts a policy of absolute adherence to one policy goal – no new taxes – isn’t a political party. It’s a cult. If Republican lawmakers wants to take their party over the cliff, be my guest. But unfortunately, they are taking a state of 38 million over that cliff with them.