The new Republican line – advanced by Steve Poizner among others – is that the legislature should do a short-term budget deal that attempts to resolve the cash crunch. That’s not a good idea. The lack of a real budget plan is at the root of the state’s inability to borrow. But it’s better than nothing. And right now, we’re stuck at nothing.
However. However. However. If there is to be such a deal, Republicans need to swallow their reality pills and realize that they’re not getting out of town without raising taxes. No responsible Democratic leader would let them get away with that. A package would still have to balance spending cuts with an equal amount of tax increases. The gas tax and vehicle license fee increase would almost certainly have to stay in. To make the numbers work, the sales tax might have to be there too. Republicans could claim victory by saying they held off the income tax surcharge, but that’s the only victory they’d have. And they’d have to fight again. If nearly all GOP lawmakers stick to their “We’re Fiddling Against Taxes While Rome Burns” position, a short-term deal is impossible.
The real question is: what strategic goal does a short-term deal really serve for Republicans? The wisdom of such a deal seems to be that it would hold off the worst of the cash problems until the economy gets better. But if you listen to Republicans in California and around the country, Democratic spending is not going to help the economy. So the logic doesn’t work. Perhaps it gives the Republicans another opening, probably this summer, to take the state to the brink of the abyss and get more concessions on things like corporate taxes and spending caps.
But the smart, strategic approach would be to pass the current bill, declare victory (and point to the various Democratic concessions), and then work to undo the things that Republicans don’t like. Also, smart Republicans need to rethink their support for the 2/3 rules in budgets and taxation.
Yes, it provides leverage. But it also saddles the party with responsibility for bad budgets, since the budget can’t be passed without Republicans. It’d be better for accountability, better for the state, and ultimately better for Republicans to deep-six two thirds. When the budget went wrong, they could blame the Democratic majority for the state’s fiscal problems – and in a majority vote system, they’d be right.