3-30-2011 5:53 am
Yesterday we saw the most recent and highest profile “cessation of negotiations” between Governor Brown, legislative Democrats, and the GOP “Rogue 5” as we call them. There is plenty of analysis available on the web for those who want to dig into the specific policy issues that were being horse traded in return for jamming taxpayers with yet another election held for the purpose of reaching into their pockets. Suffice it to say that my position, which is the position shared by a whole group of taxpayer protection groups in a letter published on the FlashReport today, and the position of 30 Senate and Assembly Republicans – there is NO public policy trade off that makes it okay to then vote to place taxes onto a special election ballot.
It is my sincerest hope that this latest “break” in negotiations is not just more posturing, as some budget kabuki dances take longer than others, but that it really means that the idea of Republicans putting up at least two votes in each chamber to put taxes on the ballot is extinguished.
As I have written before, if the very large tax increases passed as part of the now infamous 2009 budget deal are allowed to expire, that is a big win for taxpayers and for California. The number one priority of the legislature should be the pursuit of public policy that will encourage private sector job creation (more people working means more taxable income). Unfortunately, because liberal Democrats control the levers of state government, GOP opportunities towards this end are few and far between. Some Republicans are so anxious to try to govern from the minority that they are literally willing to trade bad tax policy in exchange for concessions in other policy areas. This is a flawed strategy the breaks faith with taxpayers.
By staying unified and not participating in Governor Brown’s terrible tax-increasing budget proposal (they didn’t need to raise taxes in New York State to balance their out-of-whack budget), Democrats will now be divided and Republicans can stand united. Various Democrat constituencies can fight over who bears the brunt of more cuts (union leaders will seek to protect high-paying state employee jobs while liberal ideologues might prefer to cut state employees in order to prioritize preserving more money for social welfare programs.). On the GOP side, we will have demonstrated an ability to stand together, for the taxpayer, and of course we will all be able to work together to defeat in impending onslaught of attempts to tax by initiative . Will it be a special election in November? Or do they try to push off their efforts to pass taxes until June of next year?
Let me address the much maligned “list” of 53 policy issues that Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton and Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bob Huff delivered to Governor Brown’s office late last week. First, understand this list was taken to the Governor after he had the nerve to say he was unclear as to what Republicans wanted, and demanded a “term sheet” listing them all. So Senate Republicans took this as an invitation to give Brown a list of items that they think will help turn around this state, and also develop a more appropriate relationship between the people of California and their state government.
None of the items on the list are new – in fact, I will bet you that everything on that list has probably been introduced into the legislature by Republican Senators or Assemblymembers at some point in their careers, only to watch them get killed, usually in their first committee hearing. The idea is pretty straightforward – if Democrats are going to literally run state government into the ground (the predictable effect of decades of liberal policies and onerous regulations being passed and enacted), that’s within your power under the State Constitution. You can ruin the state on a majority vote if you so desire. However the voters were very clear that the power to tax (using the coercive power of government to forcibly confiscate someone’s private property) is so awesome and extreme that it should take a two-thirds vote of the people – a supermajority.
It’s a pretty predictable outcome that if you legislate with virtually complete disregard for the minority party, you aren’t going to get them to “enable” more spending by getting them to raise taxes. If you don’t like how this ended up, I suppose you could suddenly decide to be more inclusive of GOP ideas. But I don’t expect that to happen. In fact, is some bizarre way I’m counting on it. Because I think we’re going to see a big dialogue with the voters, where liberal Democrats can advocate their massive tax increase ballot measures, and Republicans can lead a coalition to get behind initiatives that include a real spending cap, meaningful and fiscally impactful public employee pension reform, and more. This is an environment that will lead to Republican a year from November.
As we have seen from the solidarity of the 30 GOP legislators in the Taxpayers Caucus, the media advertising campaign by Americans for Prosperity, California, the broadly distributed action alerts from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and the letter from taxpayer groups featured on this website today, there will be no decline in vigilance from those of us who know that the only way we could snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory would be for GOPers to aid and abet putting a tax increase on the ballot. Fortunately, only a very few Republicans have flirted with this bad idea, and the now profess to be done with that reckless pursuit.
If you are a liberal Democrat, I have some good news for you – a “silver lining” in what is a very dark rain cloud. Thanks to your campaign to pass Proposition 25, you don’t need the votes of a single Republican to pass a budget - you get to do this on a majority vote. In times of plenty, this means you get to make all of the choices of where to spend an influx of taxpayer dollars. But it also means that in tough economic times, like now, you get to make all of the choices as to what programs and functions of state government get cut. I thought many of the additional cuts suggested by the Legislative Analyst were pretty fair, that’s probably not a bad place to start...