Ever since last week’s vote on the state budget, I have seen Democrats and many friends in the Main Stream Media (especially columnists and opinion-page writers) working overtime to diminish the substantive public policy victory achieved by Republicans as they withheld the votes that would have been required to raise California’s income, sales and car taxes. Because of the unity of Republicans on behalf of California taxpayers, who are amongst the highest taxed in the nation, billions of dollars in taxes that were billed as “temporary” have now ended. Because of Republicans, and despite Democrats, working Californians will now get to keep more of their hard-earned dollars to help balance their very stretched family or individual budgets. Because Republicans stuck together, the plans of Governor Brown and legislative Democrats to hit Californians with nearly $60 billion in higher taxes over the next four years have been foiled. This, by any measure, is a victory plain and simple. Especially in a town where the pressures to “deal” can be immense, and the full-time nature of the legislature can mean that politicians spend too much time away from the constituents that elected them to serve.
There were some GOP legislators who made no bones about the fact that they would have been willing to place a potential tax increase on the ballot, in exchange for favorable consideration of other measures also being placed on the ballot, and some regulatory reforms. That having been said, every single one of those to whom I spoke explained to me that they absolutely opposed any tax increases, opposed tying any “reform” ballot measure to the passage of the taxes, would campaign against tax increases on the ballot, and would never vote to have the legislature raise taxes (the so-called “Bridge Taxes To Nowhere”). Thus, I would make the case that every Republican Senator and Assemblymember was resolute in their opposition to actually raising taxes to deal with the state’s overspending crisis. By the way, this puts the GOP in step with the voters of California who overwhelmingly rejected extending these exact taxes.
Not only can Republicans be proud of this important, substantive policy achievement, but a very important political objective has also been achieved — which is that Republicans statewide are totally unified going into what will be a very important election cycle. If you look back to just two years ago, the ill-fated budget deal had the GOP limping along with two dumped Republican leaders (well, one may have jumped off the ledge before being pushed), the petition drive to recall a GOP legislator who violated his no new taxes pledge underway, and division between the business community and tax groups over the May, 2009 special election — it was an ugly time. This time, everyone is on the same page, prepared to work side by side to work to pick up some Republican seats next year, pass some important ballot measures (such as paycheck protection and a real spending cap) and fight off the onslaught of union-funded measure to try to extract more money from the private sector to redistribute it into the government.
Those who have not done so are encouraged to read the outstanding column from Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which ran at the top of the FlashReport yesterday. He makes a tremendous number of salient points about this budget victory for taxpayers and for Republicans — and a sobering observation that despite substantial cuts, the public employee unions managed to prevent layoffs of public workers.
As for the reforms that were not achieved as part of the California budget deal, such as meaningful changes in state and local public employee pensions, and a very real, tight, statewide cap on spending — well, those were never really on the table, were they? Never once did we hear a willingness on the part of the majority party to put anything but their fig-leaf lesser versions of these reforms onto the ballot.
And so, while Californians are enjoying some modest tax relief, there are a great many more substantive changes that need to happen within California government if we are going to get our state back on track. Yes, some of these changes will happen at the ballot box via initiative, which is important. But in the end, if voters want to see a legislature who believes in maximizing liberty and freedom, promoting private sector job creation, and pairing back onerous regulations in every area from the environment to education — they will need to elect more Republicans to serve in the State Capitol. If the 2011 budget deal demonstrated anything to those of us who follow state government — it is that the lock hold that the public employee unions have on the state’s majority party is absolute.
In closing, those media pundits out there that would seek to diminish the achievement of tax relief and the thwarting of this Governor’s efforts to use the coercive force of state government to take an additional tens of billions of dollars from Californians to finance more government spending fail to appreciate the magnitude, and importance to stopping that effort in its tracks. That is a major policy and political achievement, which deserves note, and a great deal of praise.