LOSERS OF THE MAY 19 SPECIAL ELECTION
5-21-2009 7:11 am
Welcome to the second part of our two-part feature on the FlashReport "Winners & Losers of the May 19 Special Election." Yesterday we presented the winners. Today we introduce to you the losers - those people or groups who, from our perspective, suffered in their stature, standing and reputation as a result of the outcome of Tuesday's vote.
It's always more challenging to call out losers than winners, and occasionally (but not usually) someone takes it personally. We understand if you do -- but to you we'd say, suck it up. This whole stupid special election didn't need to happen, but it did, and you tried to raise my taxes, and failed. So, losers, in no particular order, take your shame...
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. There couldn't have been but a handful of voters casting their ballot Tuesday who did not know that Arnold Schwarzenegger had spearheaded the effort to pass the measures before them. While certainly the voters were rejecting the tax increases and the "insider wheeling and dealing" that produced 1A-1F, one cannot escape the conclusion that, like after a while the new thing you bought loses its allure -- Californians are done with Arnold Schwarzenegger. A man who very convincingly ran for Governor, twice, emphatically pledging to oppose tax increases, he is no longer enchanting or convincing to the electorate, who gave him the heave-ho.
Senate President Darrell Steinberg, Speaker Karen Bass, Senator Dave Cogdill and Assemblyman Mike Villines. The "rest" of the Big 5 clearly made our loser list. The loss of credibility suffered by Cogdill and Villines is unparalleled on this entire list, and is tragic. Both are good men who lost their way, victims of a system that could not have been better designed to break down resolve, though of course ultimately responsible for their own poor decisions. For the purposes of this list, where everyone is a loser because of their support of 1A, we'll highlight a special level of loser-status for these folks who concocted and support a nefarious (and ultimately unsuccessful effort) to mislead voters by making it difficult for them to identify the true magnitude of the tax increases triggered by the passage of 1A.
The Big 5 Process. The idea that the Governor and legislative leaders would meet, from time to time, to discuss major issues at a strategic level has a lot of merit. But somehow that small group, over time, has become a small, private tribunal, making huge decisions about public policy in closed meetings. The repudiation of the ballot measures that were hatched in that room is a great opportunity to scrap the "Big 5" all together. Sure, if the principals want to meet, great. But all major decisions that affect Californians should be made in public, and with a lot more participants in the process.
Democrat Senators and Assemblymembers. They just don't get it - that Californians are overtaxed to the max. They continue to try to seek any message from Tuesday's defeat besides the obvious - which is that taxpayers are fed up being among the highest taxed people in the country. Already many are proposing new tax increases, if you can believe it. This elected showed that, by a large margin, their advocacy of higher taxes is way out of touch with Californians.
Tom Campbell, Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa. Moderate Republican Tom Campbell had to try hard to get lumped in with hard lefties like Brown, Newsom and Villaraigosa. All four of these folks aspire to lead our great state, but yet all of them sided with the Sacramento politicians, big business and the public employee unions and against the taxpayers, giving voters a very real reason to be skeptical of all four of them. Ironically Lt. Governor John Garamendi, who is no longer running for Governor, opposed 1A.
Public Employee Unions, Especially the California Teachers Association. No one has more reason to want to raise taxes than liberal unions who have a narrow mission statement - 1) higher wages and more benefits for their members and 2) grow government to increase their members. Many unions supported 1A and 1B, most notably the California Teachers Association. They put millions into the effort and fell short, but have to be wondering what kind of truck just ran them over. Also losing clout were unions like the California Faculty Association who opposed 1A - fractionalizing the labor movement, and paving the way for what we hope are a lot of cuts to state union membership, pay and benefits.
California Chamber of Commerce and California Business Roundtable. It was very insidious that big businesses in California, rather than holding the line with average taxpayers against any higher taxes, instead signed onto a deal to tax all Californians - a deal which conveniently also included well over a billion dollars in tax relief for large businesses. One could imagine the tax collector taking more money from someone's pocket, giving some of it to big corporations, and then putting the rest in the state coffers... The level of cynicism towards big business by anti-tax activists is at an all time high.
California Taxpayer Association. Last year CalTax jumped out early in support of a sales tax. This year the supposed taxpayer advocacy group came out in support of higher income, sales and car taxes. While we believe this group is staffed with well meaning opponents of higher taxes, CalTax is ultimately a tool for the big business interests when then need to put it in play. Also losing credibility - the Central Valley and Orange County Taxpayers Associations -- who split from the vast majority of taxpayer associations around California, with their support of 1A.
The New Majority. This group of wealthy donors has always had as a major focus reform in the state budget process. But for smart business types, we'll never understand why, when the "revenue smoothing measure" that emerged from the Sacramento sausage factory was so weak (and tied to $16 billion in higher taxes), that they dumped vast amounts of money into this measure. NM's reputation for prudent, strategic investments in political and policy matters took a big hit with this one.
Rick Claussen, Goddard - Claussen. Claussen was the primary media strategist for Budget Reform Now Committee. He's a smart, capable guy - and I don't know if there was a winning message to bring home these measures. But if there was one, it was Claussen's job to find it, encapsulate it in a digestible format, and put it in front of the electorate. No one that we talk to thinks that the ads that were run were effective. Claussen was handed a mess - but as we say, don't take the job if you aren't willing to be criticized for the outcome...
The Quisling Six. We may never be able to understand, truly, what caused six Republican legislators - Anthony Adams, Roy Ashburn, Dave Cogdill, Abel Maldonado, Roger Niello, and Mike Villines, to vote for higher taxes. But there is no doubt that all have suffered terribly for their decision, and will continue to endure warranted criticism for some time to come. For the next couple of years, we all will be paying higher taxes because of them - and for what? We're right back where we started!
Small Business Action Committee. Clearly small businesses have little benefit from being smacked with $16 billion in higher taxes. We're not sure how many small businesses are represented by Joel Fox's group, but it's likely a fraction of those in the NFIB California organization, which opposed 1A. Speaking of Fox, he himself sacrificed considerable credibility as a tax fighter (he formerly was President of HJTA) with his support for 1A.
Senator Bob Huff and Assemblymembers Danny Gilmore and Tom Berryhill. Bob Huff is a smart guy, and knows that the alleged spending cap in 1A was weak at best. Still he endorsed it, with the attendant tax increase, violating his pledge to oppose new taxes. Gilmore and Berryhill, in a head-scratching maneuver, both of these GOP legislators, long after it had been clearly established that Proposition 1A had been framed as a massive tax increase for very weak budget reform, came out and endorsed the measure. In doing so, both broke their pledges to oppose tax increases - and for what? We're not sure - especially in the case of Gilmore who is in a very competitive district.
Elite, Wealthy Donors. You have to wonder about the hubris of really wealthy people, to whom forcing every family in California to pay a "mere pittance" of a couple of thousand dollars in higher taxes, which of course is pocket lint to them, but not to everyone. Donors like Henry Segerstrom, Reed Hastings, Alex Spanos and more... Class warfare is never good - and having these wealthy people financing the advocacy of higher taxes on the rest of us is a bad thing. Many of these folks "hid" their donations by giving to Governor Schwarzenegger's Dream Team Account - you know who you are!
Senator Abel Maldonado. Last but certainly not least, and deserving of his own paragraph -- this icon of ideological emptiness performed political blackmail, getting the virtually meaningless Proposition 1F on the ballot, for which he then dramatically provided the last vote in the Senate to slam Californians with $14 billion in higher taxes, and then put Proposition 1A on the ballot, setting its trigger for another potential $16 billion. Maldonado is a loser because the "F" in 1F stands for "feels good" - voters will think they actually passed a measure that will modify legislative behavior, which it will not.
That's it for this go around. We apologize to any losers that we missed!
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