Do you maybe think the voters have decided the Legislature
is more trouble than it’s worth?

I mean, if we’re talking savings, canning the 120 folks in
the Assembly and state Senate would save $11.4 million a year right away, and
that’s not even counting benefits and that tax-free $142 per diem.

It’s pretty clear voters aren’t convinced that the
legislators are earning their pay. A new poll by the
Public Policy Institute of California the other day found that only 17 percent
of the state’s likely voters approve of the job the Legislature’s doing,
compared to 72 percent who aren’t happy at all.

And as for trust, 18 percent of those likely voters think we
can trust the state government to do what’s right at least most of the time.
Which means, of course, that a solid majority is convinced California would be
better served if the Legislature was replaced by one guy flipping a coin. Way
cheaper, too.

Joel Fox, the boss of this blog, had a piece earlier this
week about how the state is slipping closer to what Gov. Jerry Brown called
"the war of all against all," although in a nod to his classical seminary
education, the governor also used the Latin: "Bellum omnium contra omnes."

In Brown’s view, if the Legislature can’t come to some
agreement on the details of a long-term financial plan to close the budget gap
and pull California out of its economic doldrums, we’re courting Armageddon,
with warring interest groups spurning any compromise and going to the 2012
ballot with measures best described as partisanship on steroids: Democrats
looking to, as the Beatles put it, tax the pennies on a
dead man’s eyes
, while the Republicans channel Scrooge, wondering what
happened to the workhouses and debtors’ prisons.

Both sides already are gearing up for a fight. Progressive
groups are looking for ways to boost revenues, which is a cultured way of
saying higher taxes and more fees, while conservative groups are talking about
a new "paycheck protection" effort designed to silence the Democrats by cutting
off the campaign money from their union allies.

With the June 2012 primary still a year away, there are
already enough nasty partisan initiatives – an oil extraction tax, public
employee pension restrictions, spending limits and the like — cluttering the secretary of state’s
to make the next election one for the ages, assuming the backers can
find enough signatures to get them on the ballot.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been paying attention
to life in Sacramento. While the legislators have been content to count coup on
each other in the midst of partisan gridlock, the big changes on the state
scene, things like redistricting reform, medical marijuana, blanket primary and
a wide range of "ballot box budgeting" measures have all come up from the
people, not down from the government.

With the Legislature either unwilling or unable to agree on
the best – or even most acceptable — course for California’s future, it’s
likely to be left up to the voters, once again, to make the decisions their
representatives won’t.

And Californians like it that way, which may say more about
the Legislature than the voters. That same PPIC poll showed that 62 percent of
the state’s adults are convinced the choices they make on ballot box
initiatives are probably better than the public policy choices of the governor
and the Legislature.

And why not? The voters are at least coming to grips with
the hard choices that face California and, right or wrong, making decisions.
Which is more than can be said for the people they elect to represent them.

John Wildermuth is a
longtime writer on California politics.