Over the next couple of days we’ll have worked out the kinks in the reformatted FR blog. Normally this post would come from Bill Leonard himself, but in this instance I am posting up from my account. Enjoy! – Flash
THE BUDGET OFFENSIVE GET OFFENSIVE
The Honorable Bill Leonard
Well, charm did not work. Governor Brown has been romancing Republicans for 3 months now with his do it my way and ignore the consequences message and lo and behold it has not worked. Now its no more Mr. Nice Guy. This week Brown has resorted to name calling and veiled threats. He has moved beyond the slogan of let the voters decide to the honest admission that he needs tax increases and he needs them now.
The truth is that from last Fall onwards tax increases have been the basis for his budget plan. The details of putting them on the ballot and getting the voters to approve them all were casually assumed by Jerry Brown despite obstacles that should be daunting. I love the new twist. The Governor has re-interpreted his political promise of voter approval to suggest that having voters approve the tax increases retroactively would also be ok. I guess he could wait until the end of his first term then put them on the ballot.
Just as charm did not work, bluster will not work either. All that is left is the to ignore the Republicans and raise taxes without their votes. Of course, they could have done that in January or they should have taken up the offer of a few conservatives to put competing measures on the ballot one to raise taxes and an equal one to lower taxes. Now the Governor and the Legislature are stuck with ignoring the niceties of the legislative process and just ramming things through. After all they do want to endure a filibuster by Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton? (I have always thought Bob to be a great conversationalist and cannot imagine him giving a filibuster. Maybe the Governor and the First Lady simply did not want to hear what Dutton had to say)
ASIDE: Being First Lady of California is a difficult challenge. Being First Lady while serving as an aide to the Governor is an impossible challenge. Governor’s aides do sometimes raise their voices when talking with Legislators and Legislators have no reluctance to give back in kind. However, First Ladies are treated with a different standard than aides. It remains to be seen how our new first lady wishes to be treated but one thing is certain she cannot be treated as a First Lady and as an aide at the same time.
Back to budgeteering. Like the Federal drama that just ended its first act, if the state of California had only in a one year problem this single budget would be easy to solve. But it is not a short term problem and competing visions for the future of California are at stake. Shall we shrink our government to not only live within our means but to allow for repayment of debt and reduction of tax burdens on California families (the sales tax is a very regressive tax)? Or shall we grow our government using higher tax rates to support an expanding bureaucracy that re-distributes wealth to those who meet government standards? Which California would you like to live in five years from now?
The good news is that all sides now know that the fight is over the long term future of California and not just a 12 month spending plan. Recent history have featured foolish attempts to just get by for another year in the hopes that some new economic boom will save the state. However, the bad news is that the new Governor is still getting to know his administration (there are still hundreds of vacancies and lots of new state programs since 1982) and the Legislators themselves are new to this environment. (With a few exceptions no sitting Assemblymember has served under a Democrat Governor).
Clearly Governor Brown and his Legislative allies have chosen the alternative of growing government. The Legislative Republicans are in a difficult position to defeat his plan. It is up to the voters to decide either in special elections on Brown’s tax increases or in regular elections on the vision of the candidates we elect to office.
The budget offensive is on.