The Republicans have lighted a path for the governor to put
the tax extensions on the ballot if the governor is willing to take a
calculated risk – put tax cuts on the ballot as well.
The governor insists the people should vote on his tax
extension plan. Many Republicans say they will only put those tax extensions on
the ballot if equivalent tax cuts are also placed on the ballot.
It’s a risk to the governor and Democrats agenda, but how
big a risk? There really hasn’t been much call for a tax cut recently and there
doesn’t seem to be a demand for new tax cuts from the voters.
The tax extensions are a different matter. Defeating the tax
extensions might be considered the same as approving a tax cut because it would
affirm the current temporary tax levels expire. Governor Brown said he is willing
to take on that fight.
If both tax cut and tax extension measures are on the
ballot, my guess is the focus of any campaign would be the tax extensions.
There could be a Yes on Tax Extensions; No on Tax Cuts campaign and vice-versa,
but I believe the emphasis will be on the extensions. Not much money would be
put behind a tax cut effort; look for gobs of money to be spent in the fight
over tax extensions.
If the governor believes the voters will follow his lead and
support the tax extensions then, logically, he has to believe they would also
turn down any tax cuts. If so, he should not fear the tax cut measure on the
This is the time to put other reforms on the ballot as well.
I have argued
previously for taking a long view and putting spending limits and pension
reforms on the ballot to deal with the budget’s structural problems.
The governor argues, as he did at a legislative committee
yesterday, that this special election is about giving the people the right to
vote. That vote should not be limited to whether the tax extensions are passed
or not. Let the voters set a direction for the budget by voting on related
Still, the budget debate has come down to the tax extensions
and whether the voters will have an opportunity to vote on them. The new
Taxpayers Caucus has shown the way to bring that issue to the voters and the
governor should take them up on it.