Core elements of California’s budget problem were exposed in the political ploy by labor and environmental groups charging that Republican legislators are offering to trade votes in the budget talks.

The union and environmental groups sent a letter to Attorney General Jerry Brown charging GOP legislators with offering to trade their budget votes for a loosening of labor and environmental laws. Leaders from the California Labor Federation, State Building and Construction Trades Council, Conservation League and Sierra Club say that changes in environmental and labor laws have nothing to do with the budget; therefore, trading a vote on the budget and/or taxes for labor and environmental reforms is illegal.

Revenue government collects from private sector activity has everything to do with the budget and the current budget crisis. Allowing business to grow will produce more revenue. Putting restrictions on business will limit revenue.

Secondarily, the activists’ call for an attorney general’s investigation turns the art of compromise into a criminal offense. That, itself, is criminal in a metaphorical sense. Compromise is the oil that smoothes the running of government’s machinery. Take away the oil and government grinds to a stop. Adding the threat of a judicial investigation encourages the machinery to rust.

Supporting the loosening of some restrictions to speed up the economy doesn’t mean we should abandon concern for the environment or workers’ health and safety. While opponents to some minor adjustments in the law posture that the most dire circumstances will result if the changes are made, no one is suggesting we return to the days of the Malakoff Diggins, for example, when gold rush pioneers washed down the sides of mountains to pull out gold while scarring the land.

But adjustments to speeding up work projects and allowing workers more flexibility would actually help the economy, which in turn will bring more revenue to the state. At the same time, many workers would enjoy the flexibility provided by reformed work rules.

Just yesterday on Fox and Hounds Daily, Jack Stewart did a good job pointing out the loss of high paying jobs in this state. We should be encouraging job growth, not doing everything possible to stunt it. Better paying jobs means more money to the state treasury and less aggravation over the budget.

Yes, Virginia, regulation reform is all about the budget.

Beyond this economic concern, public discourse is cheapened by the threats of lawsuits and criminal proceedings over policy issues. Should we pull out the bribery statute every time a politician gets a 100% approval rating from a special interest that has given that politician campaign money?

The Attorney General could lead in altering this ugly practice by taking the letter he received from the environmental and union activists and marking it Return to Sender.