In trying to determine if
a deal to put a spending limit and pension reforms on the ballot in exchange
for placing tax extensions on the ballot were possible, I spoke with a few
people knowledgeable in California politics on my flight to Sacramento
yesterday. The answer I received: the public unions would not let it happen.
Hours later, five Senate Republicans (Tom Berryhill, Sam Blakeslee, Anthony
Cannella, Bill Emmerson and Tom Harman) issued a letter sent to Governor Jerry
Brown saying that budget negotiations were at an impasse. The senators were
seeking the type of reforms that are needed to move the state past perennial
budget deficits: spending limits, pension reform and business reforms.
The latter is important because as Capitol veteran and author of California’s
Tax Machine, Dave Doerr, reminded me later in the day, more money is
brought into the treasury from economic growth than has ever come by way of a
While Governor Brown put off his deadline for qualifying a measure for the
ballot to see if he can get the votes he needs, it appears those interests that
support increased spending do not want the people to vote on specific reforms.
The senators addressed this in their letter to the governor when they stated:
"We have therefore concluded that you are unable to compel other stakeholders
to accept real reform."
That raises the question: Why are only Republicans accused of denying the
people a vote to settle this budget crisis?
If the deadline for calling a special election passes and the governor follows
through with his all cuts budget, the stage is set for an initiative war
between those who would promote new taxes and those who would propose spending
The opportunity was there for important fiscal structural changes. But despite
the harping of many newspaper editorialists blaming Republicans for not
allowing the voters’ approval on tax extensions, it appears the Democrats and
their allies missed the opportunity by objecting to real reforms being placed
on the ballot.