Republicans in the legislature have been tagged as the “Party of No” for not agreeing to put tax extensions on the ballot. However, they are not the only party that is practicing the art of saying no. Democrats are saying no to putting reforms on the ballot such as a spending cap, pension reform or regulation reform.
Read news accounts, editorials or listen to Democratic politicians and you will hear that the Republicans are the obstacle to a budget solution. Democratic consultant Darry Sragow questioned in the Sacramento Bee this weekend whether the Republicans were even committed to democracy because they have not allowed the people to vote on tax extensions.
The Republicans can change this narrative if they come together behind a move to put reforms on the ballot. Five GOP senators have been negotiating with the governor for reforms. They must take the next step and tell the world exactly what they want to see on the ballot.
Once that is done, the governor, the Democrats and their allies will be put on the spot. Do they want these important, long-term reforms to structurally fix the budget problem? Or will they say: No!
The Democrats may say the reforms go too far, or claim they will deal with reform issues in the future. But the bottom line is, if the Democrats turn down the proposals, Democrats will firmly be established as the party of no; the party that opposes a vote of the people.
The Republicans can present vetted proposals such as the pension reform put forward by the bi-partisan Little Hoover Commission or a spending limit built similar to the Gann limit that was supported when the Gann limit was on the ballot by then Governor Jerry Brown and Democratic Speaker of the Assembly Leo McCarthy.
At the state Republican convention this weekend, outgoing state chairman Ron Nehring said from the podium that the Republican senators who negotiated with the governor and pushed reforms have performed a service by clarifying the Democrats’ position. Nehring suggested the governor’s response to each reform was “no, no, no.”
However, that all occurred behind closed doors. The public should hear if the governor and Democrats are saying no to voting on budget changes.
Republicans have no chance to put pension reform and spending limits on the ballot without going the initiative route. Under negotiation, if by some extraordinary event the reforms as written by the Republicans and the tax extensions do make the ballot, the Republicans can campaign against the taxes and polling indicates the taxes have an uphill battle to pass.
But in truth, what is likely to happen if the Republicans announce strong, solid reforms? The governor and Democrats most assuredly would turn them down.
Then we have a different narrative the people will hear. The Democrats refuse to allow the people to vote. The Democrats are against reform. The Democrats oppose democracy. The Democrats are the party of no.