The effort to do away with the two-thirds vote to raise taxes has been camouflaged with an argument that “democracy” must be served by applying a majority vote to all state revenue issues. UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff’s initiative to lower the two-thirds vote to majority rests on this argument.

No one is fooled. The attempt to remove the two-thirds vote IS about taxes.

Lakoff’s first initiative effort will not have the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. He has filed a new initiative hoping to get a different title and summary out of the attorney general’s office. The first initiative title and summary told potential petition signers what the initiative was all about: “Changes Legislative Vote Requirement to Pass a Budget or Raise Taxes from Two-Thirds to a Simple Majority.”

Lakoff argued in the Huffington Post that taxes should not be mentioned in the title and summary because the measure is simply about setting up a democratic majority vote for legislative acts. Further, he argued that most people would not face taxes anyway because: “No one in the legislature wants to raise taxes on most voters.”

The professor must have missed the vote just a year ago February in which the legislature passed an increase in the income, sales and car tax which hit every taxpayer.

On his Californians for Democracy website, Lakoff boasts of a poll that supposedly shows that voters are eager to reject the two-thirds vote for the more democratic majority vote. However, when the voters understand the change would make it easier to raise taxes, Lakoff admits they change their mind.

So the strategy proposed by proponents of this measure is: Let’s not tell the voters. Discuss something other than the fact this measure will make it easier to raise taxes, which is the whole point of the constitutional change.

Even columnist Peter Schrag, sympathetic to Lakoff’s crusade, admits in his California Progress Report article: “Still, even many of those who’d fervently like to end the minority veto in California government concede that Lakoff’s initiative is still about taxes, and Brown probably
wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t make that clear.”

Howard Jarvis said he put the two-thirds legislative vote provision in his Proposition 13 constitutional amendment so the legislature would not easily make up the tax cuts the people voted themselves when they passed the property tax cutting measure.

Changing the two-thirds vote provision IS about taxes.

If the Lakoff initiative qualifies for the ballot, rest assured the campaign and debate over the proposition will be fought over taxes.

However, changing the two-thirds vote rule can be done by a “democratic” majority vote, as I’ve stated here before. A simple majority vote amends the constitutional requirement for a two-thirds legislative vote. Therefore, the process is democratic, as Lakoff desires. The professor acknowledges that himself in the Huffington Post column when he writes: “And on an initiative, a simple majority can end the 2/3 vote rules.”

Democracy is not being subverted under current law. Using the democracy argument to evade the debate over the two-thirds vote as a taxpayer protection is a shell game. Schrag acknowledges that in closing his article. “In the end, maybe you have to fool them (the voters) into changing it (the two-thirds vote).”

Well, Peter, as Honest Abe said, “You can’t fool all the people all the time.”