What Now for Bob Hertzberg?

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

With the announcement yesterday that Sen. Toni Atkins will be the next president pro tem of the state senate a fair question is where does Sen. Bob Hertzberg focus his immense energies since he too aspired to that post?

Like Atkins, Hertzberg was once Speaker of the Assembly. He was also a successful lawyer, a businessman who worked with alternative energy and was once a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles.

The senate leadership position would have been a place from which he could drive an agenda. Hertzberg has a high profile agenda he pursued as senator. He will continue his efforts to change the bail system in California with an eye toward achieving more social justice in the system.

But, Hertzberg is most identified with his Herculean effort to reform the tax system. His idea of a service tax has been met with opposition from various interests who are comfortable with the present tax structure.

There are other positions that lend themselves to leading policy change.

Governor for instance.

There have been suggestions that the business community would be comfortable with Hertzberg in the governor’s chair. While it is not too late to declare for that race, other Democratic candidates have a great head start in fundraising. If Hertzberg had the wealth of a Meg Whitman, for instance, he might jump into the contest.

Even without holding down a leadership post, Hertzberg would command attention if the effort of tax reform becomes a central policy debate under the next governor.

If tax reform were to get done, it would best be accomplished in the first year of a new governor’s term. A Governor Hertzberg could lead such an effort. But even if the next governor is not named Hertzberg expect the senator to have a central role if tax reform becomes a hot topic.

It is interesting to note that in recent interviews the two poll-leading candidates for governor, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, both talked favorably about tax reform and hinted strongly toward considering taxing services, which is the heart of Hertzberg’s reform plan.

Newsom said we could “tax the economy that exists today,” a reference to the service sector, which now makes up a major portion of the California economy. Likewise, Villaraigosa said, “I think 30-some-odd states have a service tax, and we don’t, and it’s the fastest-growing part of the economy.”

Not all policy change is led by someone who has a fancy title before his or her name.

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