While I have praised California’s once and current Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, for his attempts to cut the state’s bloated budget, I have faulted him for not seeking solutions to the structural problems which, in large part, account for the constant flow of red ink from Sacramento. While he has moved to trim myriad extraneous expenditures and gratuitous perks, he has not sought to reform policies which empower a key constituency of his party, public employee unions.
As a result, in order to balance the budget, he has had to resort to raising taxes through referendum. But, to get that referendum on the ballot, he needs a two-thirds vote in the state legislature which means, he has to rally a few Republicans to his cause. Well, he got none. Yesterday, the governor announced that “he halted negotiations with legislative Republicans over a deal to place taxes on the ballot to help resolve California’s remaining $15.4 billion deficit.”
“Yesterday, I stopped the discussions that I had been conducting with various members of the Republican party regarding our state’s massive deficit,” Brown said in a statement this afternoon. “The budget plan that I put forth is balanced between deep cuts and extensions of currently existing taxes and I believe it is in the best interest of California. Under our constitution, however, two Republicans from the Assembly and two from the Senate must agree before this matter can be put to the people.”
“Each and every Republican legislator I’ve spoken to believes that voters should not have this right to vote unless I agree to an ever changing list of collateral demands,” the Democratic governor added.
Senate Republicans on Friday released a list of major policy changes they wanted as a condition of voting for Brown’s budget proposals. The move was widely seen as disruptive to talks, but the governor had reached out to three Senate Republicans this weekend in hopes of salvaging a deal before deciding to call off talks.
One of the three, Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, blamed trial lawyers, unions and “other stakeholders” for being unwilling to negotiate on pension cuts, a long-term cap on spending and regulatory changes.
“As a result of these groups’ refusal to challenge the status quo, it has become clear the governor and legislative Democrats are not in a position to work with us to pass the measures necessary to move California forward,” Cannella said in a statement. “Thus, I do not foresee a path to compromise.”
Kudos to Cannella and other Republicans for standing firm. It’s too bad the governor has, as of yet, proven unwilling to stand up against the various Democratic interest groups whose demands have long been bankrupting our great state.
Republicans have to use what leverage they have to promote the reforms they believe are necessary to balance the state’s budget. That said, as Sonicfrog reminds us, “Jerry Brown and the Democrats won the last election fair and square. They have the overwhelming majority and should be able implement the policies they envision as best for California.” Yet, the state constitution still requires a two-thirds vote for a tax increase.
If Brown and his fellow Democrats do find a way around that provision, then they will own whatever solution they come up with. And Republicans will be able to hold them to account for their failure to hold the line on taxes, their inability to enact real reforms, their unwillingness to contain the growth of state government and to constrain the power of the public employee unions.