For the past few months, Governor Jerry Brown and his Senate and Assembly Democratic leaders have been speaking off the same song sheet – “it would be ‘unconscionable’ to not let California voters decide the direction of the state.” Shouldn’t it also be “unconscionable” for the Democratic leadership to only have California voters decide on taxes and issues these legislators care about?
Well, I say, let the voters decide.
Let the voters decide whether $500 billion in unfunded pension liability is too much of a burden for our state.
Let the voters decide whether California should have a spending cap.
Let the voters decide whether newly hired state workers should be moved into a 401(k) type retirement plan.
Let the voters also decide on education priorities, which have a long-term economic impact on our state: reforming teacher tenure, offering school choice, and merit based pay.
Let the voters decide whether the state should move the “minimum retirement age” of state workers to 55, heck, give them an option, 55, 60, or 65.
And if we are really in the mood of letting California voters decide the direction of the state, why not let them also decide on legislative salaries, per diem, and state purchased cars? How about whether the legislature should be moved back to part-time status?
When the governor states he “doesn’t want to put too much on the table,” the truth is, he is beholden to too many people and the only choice he wants to give voters are those that keep his political union bosses happy.
Why should any rational voter believe the union bosses would be willing to make pension concessions and support a spending cap if voters support the Democrat tax plan? What incentives would the unions have? And at this point California taxpayers would have no leverage to negotiate.
The Democratic leadership should understand that tax increases won’t solve the state’s budgetary problems, it delays making the structural changes needed to keep government services and the promised pension and health care plans for government workers sustainable. If we simply continue to raise taxes to pay for spending and public worker benefits we can’t afford, when will unions ever come to the table and accept meaningful reforms?
Their Democratic tax plan is just a delay tactic, where politicians hope and pray, yearly state revenues increase by $12 billion in 5 years from now (that is assuming state spending remains at the current level).
It would truly be “unconscionable” for the Democratic leadership to let this opportunity of making historical structural changes to our state government pass us by, in order to continue protecting a privileged class of union workers at the expense of struggling California families.
Hector Barajas is a partner at Bellor Communications, Inc. and a political analyst for Univision. He previously served as communications director for the California Republican Party, spokesman for Governor Schwarzenegger, and Meg Whitman 2010.