Sitting in the Governor's spartan office, Jerry Brown and wife/senior advisor Anne Gust can take out their "hit list" of Republican legislators, and also get out a big fat red marking pen. Once they have done so, they can use the marker to scratch out the names of thirty State Senate and Assembly GOP legislators who yesterday joined the California Taxpayers Caucus. While all of these legislators had already signed the Americans for Tax Reform No New Taxes pledge, when joining this new Taxpayer Caucus, all of these legislators specifically pledged to oppose placing ANY tax increase measures on the ballot (with the only exception being spelled out in writing being a vote to place taxes on the ballot if that same ballot would also include tax cuts of an equal or greater amount).
I flew up to the Capitol yesterday to cover the press conference announcing the formation of the Taxpayers Caucus, which took place on the steps of the State Capitol (somehow the Brown Administration couldn't get their act together to provide the press conference room inside of the Capitol for this event). A representative sampling of the thirty-member strong Caucus was on hand to announce this new endeavor. Immediately below are some interviews I took with legislators on hand, and one Assembly candidate into whom I ran at the event. This collection of short interviews starts with a talk with the new Co-Chairmen of the Taxpayers Caucus -- State Senator Tony Strickland and Assemblyman Don Wagner. At the bottom of this post I have placed a video I took of the entire press conference, which (along with Q & A) runs about a half hour.
The new caucus vows to support State budgets that balance the budget without gimmicks; oppose and vote against any budget that increases taxes; oppose and vote against placing tax increases on the ballot; uphold Proposition 13; and support tax cuts that bring back jobs and stimulate the economy.
“The Taxpayers Caucus is an idea whose time has come,” said Tony Strickland. “Taxpayers in California are under increasing assault like never before. The hard-working families of California need protection now more than ever, and we’re going to give them a strong voice inside their State government.”
The Taxpayers Caucus plans to regularly hold working group meetings, invite prominent Taxpayer advocates from around the U.S. to speak in California, publish joint studies, and partner with other like-minded organizations that are committed to Taxpayer protections.
“With California’s economy still in recession, foreclosures at an all-time high, 40% of California homes upside down in value, and the highest unemployment (12.5%) in the nation, our Taxpayers need protection from the tax-and-spend politics of Sacramento,” said Don Wagner. “We invite all of our fellow members of the Legislature to join us.”
Inaugural members of the Taxpayers Caucus from the State Senate include Senators Tony Strickland, Joel Anderson, Jean Fuller Ted Gaines, Doug LaMalfa, Sharon Runner, Mimi Walters, and Mark Wyland. In the Assembly, joining the group are Don Wagner, Tim Donnelly, Nathan Fletcher, Martin Garrick, Jeff Gorrell, Shannon Grove, Curt Hagman, Linda Halderman, Diane Harkey, Kevin Jeffries, Brian Jones, Pete Knight, Dan Logue, Mike Morrell, Allan Mansoor, Jeff Miller, Briane Nestande, Jim Neilsen, Chris Norby, Jim Silva, Cameron Smyth and David Valadao.
Republican Senators not joining the Taxpayer Caucus (at least not yet): Tom Berryhill, Sam Blakeslee, Anthony Cannella, Bill Emmerson, Bob Huff, Tom Harman and Bob Dutton*. Republican Assemblymembers not joining include Katcho Achadjian, Bill Berryhill, Paul Cook, Kristen Olsen, and Connie Conway*.
We asked Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, to comment on this new California Taxpayers Caucus. He told us, "The Republican Study Committee serves as a bulwark against anti-growth policies in Congress. It is hugely helpful that there is now a similar force in Sacramento."
Of course Governor Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats are desperate to get two Republican Senators and two Republican Assemblymembers to vote with them to place a massive increase in sales, car and income taxes on a June special election ballot. As I said above, given that one of the major tenants of this new Taxpayer Caucus is a commitment from its new members to oppose any vote to place taxes on the ballot (unless that same ballot also gives the voters the option of tax cuts of an equal or greater amount), this significantly narrows down the number of GOPers that the Democrats can look to to make some sort of deal.
There is growing consensus from conservative and Republican opinion leaders around California that the "reform" needed in state government is the adoption of a "live within your means" budget that contains no new taxes, and the necessary reprioritization and scaling back of the welfare state that comes with an "all cuts" budget solution. Needless to say this is hardly the preferred choice of Democrats who choose to ignore that California voters rejected the last seven efforts to raise taxes at the ballot.
The Taxpayer Caucus is a non-partisan body, and Co-Chairman Tony Strickland made it very clear that while so far every new member of the group is a Republican, "We have extended an invitation in writing to all of our colleagues, including Democrats, and hope they will all review our statement of principles and consider joining the group."
*In the case of the Senate and Assembly Republican leaders, neither were asked to join the Taxpayers Caucus, as they are already heading up the overall Republican caucuses.
For our part here at the FlashReport, we not only commend the vast majority of GOP legislators who have joined the Taxpayers Caucus -- but we urge all of those legislators who, for whatever reason have not done so, to join as well. Not only because the Taxpayers Caucus is preparing to engage in good, thoughtful works -- but it would be a great way to officially "close the door" on the lame idea that legislators are going to play "kick the can" and send yet another tax increase proposal to the voters for rejection. Unless the public employee unions want to just go ahead and qualify their taxing scheme by initiative campaign, which we welcome them to do!