2-19-2009 4:22 pm
Politics is more like a chess game than a checkers game -- it's complex, and people who want to seriously understand why things happen, and what some of the real motivations are, should take the time to step back, and take things in context.
First and foremost, it's obvious on the face of it to be able to say that the six Republican legislators (Senators Ashburn, Cogdill and Maldonado and Assemblymen Adams, Niello and Villines) who actually voted for the bill that imposed over $14 billion in new taxes were critical to its passage. Shame on them. Truly, they have done a tremendous disservice to their state and to their party.
But in taking some time to contemplate the politics of the final hours of this Big 5/Big Taxes deal passing out of the legislature, you have to say, how did it happen? After all, the votes to pass the plan simply were not there in the State Senate. You needed three Republicans to support the actual tax increase legislation, and they were one vote shy. Eleven GOP Senators basically said there was no way there were going up on the tax bill (Aanestad, Benoit, Denham, Dutton, Hollingsworth, Harman, Huff, Runner, Strickland, Walters, Wyland). Two GOP Senators folded like cheap suits -- Cogdill and Ashburn. This left two Senators who were "open" to voting for the taxes, and who presented private lists of demands -- Cox and Maldonado. Frankly, I don't know what was in Cox's bill of particulars, but Maldonado's was quite public -- and one of the major "demands" he wanted to get his vote (the final vote needed) for the taxes was the placement of an open primary on the ballot. Cox ultimately decided to vote against the deal, but Maldonado's demands were within reach, and so, the question ended up coming down to whether or not the advocates of the Big 5/Big Taxes deal could get enough Dems and Reps to go up on the Maldonado Open Primary measure (it takes a 2/3 vote to put a measure on the ballot).
I should interject at this point, by the way, that an open primary would literally open the floodgates for tax increases in California, as the open primary system is designed to put more political moderates in the legislature -- the kind that would never hold the line on anything, let alone taxes.
Anyways, when you look at this scenario this way, smart people can easily deduce that when you look at the Republican legislators who voted to place the open primary on the ballot, and subtract those away who actually voted for the taxes, you are left with a group of Republican legislators who either supported an open primary because they actually think we should have then, but who also knew that supporting it early this morning was tantamount to supporting the tax increase, since Abel's vote to put that out was tied to the open primary -- or they oppose an open primary, but wanted to help get the Big 5/Big Taxes deal passed.
So, while I invite anyone else to comment with a different view on this, I think it is fair to say that the following Republican legislators supported passing the largest tax increase in any state in the history of our nation as a means to resolve our overspending crisis. They will wiggle, and try to say, "But I voted against the taxes."
As a sophisticated follower of politics, you should call them on that, and make sure you let them know that "you get it", and that the ONLY reason to vote for the open primary this morning was to induce Maldonado's vote in favor the taxes.
Again, putting aside the six legislators who voted for the taxes directly (and who in this bizarre context may actually get strange brownie points for having the courage to be up front about it, instead of hiding behind mirrors), the legislators who supported the Big 5/Big Taxes plan are: Senators Dave Cox and Jeff Denham, and Assemblymembers Bill Berryhill, Tom Berryhill, Sam Blakeslee, Muke Duvall, Paul Cook, Connie Conway, Bill Emmerson, Nathan Fletcher, Jean Fuller, Danny Gilmore, Brian Nestande, Jim Nielson, and Cameron Smyth.
You know, a lot of time and stress on the part of a lot of people could have been avoided if this group just said, "look, I know I took a no-new-taxes pledge, but I still think we need this plan" and voted for it. The way this went down, it amounted to the same think, but with everyone having to lose a lot of sleep.
The pledge actually says that a legislator will oppose tax increases, and efforts to increase taxes. Clearly supporting Maldonado's non-budget-related "wish list" item, in the context of the budget debate, was supporting, not opposing the effort to raise taxes.
Let's have an honest debate, folks. It shouldn't take your friendly neighborhood blogger writing up an analysis like this to connect the dots, should it?
If you are a Republican activist and you see one of these legislators at the convention (many may "duck" it), ask them about this, and see if they are straight forward. Perhaps they will pull you into a corner and tell you their secret "Shhh. Really didn't see any other way out of this mess, and so I really did feel that massive tax increases were a necessary part of a solution..." They certainly won't put that in a press release.
In closing, let me again thank all of our Republican legislators who voted not only against the actual tax increase bill, but who actually thought the taxes should not be passed, and who opposed efforts to get it passed, including opposing this open primary scheme.
(Oh yes. Publishing this kind of analysis isn't easy. Most of these legislators, to varying degrees, are personal friends of mine. But they all know me -- and that this is my job, just like they have theirs. Ain't politics a wonderful thing?)