Commentary: Will California buck the conservative election wave?

If you believe the polling, California will buck the nation's conservative tidal wave.

At night's end, according to the pollsters, we'll have a Democratic governor and Legislature and a new budgeting law that reduces the influence of the minority party.

We will have taxed ourselves an extra $18 per vehicle a year to pay for state parks and demonstrated faith in green energy by turning back Big Oil's attempt to suspend a landmark global warming law.

Plus, Republicans will have liberal Barbara Boxer to kick around for six more years.

It doesn't get more contrarian than that.

For years, we've joked about California's propensity for going its own way. Now, the punch line is on the verge of becoming cemented reality.

A Jerry Brown victory and passage of the Proposition 25 budget initiative would trigger a Democratic celebration and promises of better days -- although Brown is too seasoned not to temper expectations with a cautionary word or two.

But, after the balloons and confetti are cleaned up, the Democrats will confront the reality of leading a state teetering on bankruptcy and losing business to more nimble competitors in the global economy.

The question is, can Democrats reform themselves sufficiently to address California's problems? Or will they continue on the path of higher taxes and more regulation to appease the party's core constituencies -- public-employee unions, environmental advocacy groups and trial lawyers associations.

Modification of the state's burdensome permitting process is long overdue. Even green energy boosters complain about the time and money wasted trying to get solar and wind farms built. Pension reform is needed to remedy the structural deficits in the budget. And you can bet that the workers compensation retooling -- one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's few victories as governor -- will be under assault starting at midnight.

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