Republican efforts to trade a tax vote for a fiscal reform vote are going nowhere fast, as Gov. Jerry Brown continues to prove that he is the best $30 million investment that the state’s public employee unions ever could have made. That’s the amount of independent expenditures the unions spent on his behalf. Despite Brown’s blather about making difficult budget decisions, Brown clearly sees no other approach than raising taxes.
Five Senate Republicans met with the governor this week. Instead of joining a caucus of GOP legislators opposed to putting the governor’s tax extensions on the ballot, they wanted to keep open the lines of communication and discuss an approach favored by more moderate Republicans — possibly allowing the tax hikes on the ballot, but pairing them with other initiatives that would reform pensions and achieve other government reform goals that save money in the long run.
The senators were soundly rebuffed by Brown, who has been insisting that allowing his tax vote is the foundation of democracy. He even compared his push to the democratic yearnings of protesters in the Middle East. Yet Brown believes no such thing about the right of the people to express themselves on matters that would go against the grain of his union allies. There will be no vote, if he can help it, on pension reform, regulatory reform, a spending cap or reform of the state’s job-killing global-warming law. Votes for taxes are the epitome of democracy, in his view, but votes for other things are obstructionism.
Brown’s hypocrisy is stunning. He has called for Republicans to join him in discussions, but when five senators did just that, he and his allies dismissed their suggestions out of hand.
At press time, Brown lacks the GOP votes to take his tax extensions to the ballot, although there still is time to make the ballot deadline. But it’s clear that it’s not the Republicans who are unwilling to compromise, but the administration and legislative Democrats who refuse to give on reform.
Without changes in the way the California Legislature does business, we will face a continuing stream of taxing and spending.