As legislators and the governor see the budget deadline
before them, Democrats are reportedly patching
together a budget that will not require tax increases, relying on budget
gimmicks from the past. If that kind of
budget passes, expect Brown to get Republican votes to put taxes on a fall
ballot as long as reforms are included.
However, in a role reversal, reforms could become the hurdle
to a special election if public employee unions object.
At a news conference yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown urged
Republicans in the legislature not to be led by talk radio hosts, bloggers or
Washington ideologues. He did not say public employee unions should not lead
It’s important to know where the unions are on the overall
deal Brown has been trying to hammer out with some Republicans to put both tax
extensions and reforms on the ballot.
The governor said he and some Republicans are close to
agreeing on reforms. Later in the day, Republican Senators Berryhill, Cannella,
Emmerson and Harman released the reforms they proposed. You can find the
reforms on spending, pensions, regulations and CEQA here.
Where the Democrats’ allies in the unions are on these
reforms is important to the overall effort to call a special election.
Negotiations are centered on the "bridge taxes." That is,
continue the temporary taxes for a set amount of time until the voters can
decide whether or not to extend them for the five years the governor is seeking.
However, the unions’ reaction to the reforms could be as big an obstacle to a
deal as Republicans opposition to continuing taxes without a vote of the
SEIU president David Kieffer talks about
elections being "irresponsible" – that is after the unions spent months
saying elections on tax extensions were the responsible thing to do.
Negotiations around the budget deal are probably changing
hourly as legislators rush to pass a budget by June 15 and avoid losing pay
under the provisions of Proposition 25.
Curiously, no legislator has publically suggested the length
of the tax extension be reduced as part of negotiations. Given the announcement
of unanticipated revenue in the billions of dollars, you would think a
negotiating point would be drop the five year extension to two or three years.
The governor says he thinks five years of temporary taxes
are needed to get California’s fiscal house in order. The cynic notes that five
years extends beyond the next gubernatorial election. Limiting the tax
extension to three years, if the people buy on, would inject the tax issue –
could there be a call for another
extension at that time – into the middle of the next governor’s race.
In fact, one supporter of the governor’s plan, the Los
Angeles Chamber of Commerce, recommended a three year extension instead of five
years when the Chamber endorsed the proposal.
No matter the term of the extension, the taxes will face a
tough sell if they make the ballot.
As I have written for months, the tax extensions should be
on the ballot along with the reforms. Let the voters decide.