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WSJ’s John Fund: California Dems Get Even Less Serious

From today’s Wall Street Journal Political Diary E-mail…

California Dems Get Even Less Serious

California Democratic leaders, frustrated by the refusal of Republican state legislators to go along with tax increases to close the state’s $15.4 billion deficit, are threatening to focus budget cuts on the districts that those Republicans represent.

“You don’t want to pay for government, well then, you get less of it,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg told reporters last week. Mr. Steinberg echoed comments made by Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who said that budget cuts should be targeted at the districts of lawmakers who oppose putting $11 billion in tax increases before the state’s voters in a referendum.

“When it comes to kids or the vulnerable, I wouldn’t want to make distinctions between who lives in a Democratic district and who lives in a Republican district, but when it comes to sort of basic services, convenience services that affect adults … I have an open mind,” Mr. Steinberg told reporters at the Sacramento Press Club.

A spokeswoman for Bob Dutton, the Senate’s Republican leader, reacted quickly to the bully-boy tactics. “It only means Democrats are unwilling to stand up to public employee unions,” said Jann Taber. “They’d rather cut services to Californians than fix bloated public employee pension systems. Clearly this isn’t an attempt to craft a true bipartisan budget solution.”

Local officials in districts represented by Republicans called the tactic counterproductive. “That is shameless extortion,” Butte County Supervisor Larry Wahl told the Sacramento Bee. “He’s trying to get me to call [Assemblyman Dan] Logue and [state Sen.] Doug LaMalfa and say, ‘Raise our taxes.’ I’m not going to do that.”

But Democrats aren’t backing down from their threat. “It’s really a simple concept,” said Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar. “If we have to adopt an all-cuts budget because voters aren’t even given the chance to decide the tax issue, then we engage in another democratic process. The folks who want less government get less government. It’s not vindictive, it’s democracy in action.”

Actually, there’s another name for it. Targeting the constituents of elected representatives for budget cuts is a tactic worthy of a Banana Republic, which California is in danger of resembling as it refuses to deal with its budget realities in a serious way.

— John Fund