Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was right to call a special session in the waning days of his governorship. But in dedicating the session to the budget deficit, he chose the wrong subject.

Put simply, the last thing this state needs is another debate over how to cut the budget. Anyone paying attention to the California budget crisis figured out long ago that there’s no politically feasible way to balance the state budget. Schwarzenegger’s proposals for cuts are almost certain to be dead on arrival with legislative Democrats, who would prefer to deal with the Democratic governor-elect. Schwarzenegger’s decision to spend the last few weeks of his governorship banging his head against that wall is pointless.

A better approach would be to spend that time looking at constitutional changes that would reshape the budget system itself. Certainly, with a new governor coming in, such a session is unlikely to produce more reforms. But the special session Schwarzenegger has called isn’t any more likely to produce a balanced budget.

The governor should put on the table his ideal budget reform – my hope is that it would include a bigger rainy day fund and proposals for a constitutional revision that would strip voter-approved formulas and supermajorities from the constitution — and beat the legislature over the head with it. Yes, this would be a howl at the moon. But it’d be a righteous howl. Any attention the gambit got would be good, since the public has done precious little thinking about structural fixes to the budget process. And on a personal level, Schwarzenegger would be able to say that he left office fighting to the end to fix a broken budget system.

This might also set the stage for next year, when – as my California Crackup co-author Mark Paul and I recently argued in the LA Times [ADD LINK:] – the new governor and legislator should focus on constitutional reform (and kick the actual decision on next year’s budget to voters).

The bottom line: elected officials should stop wasting time playing a game – the current budget process – that can’t be won. Instead, they need to design a more rational game.