Dear Joel,

Thank you for calling me out  for my mention of "Taxpayer Right to
Vote"  at our encounter  at the Deliberative Poll/PBS event last month.  When I described it, I noticed that you were
at a loss for words at the common sense of allowing a majority of the
legislature to take a tax vote to a majority of the people.  Joel, from our hundred-plus joint appearances
and debates, I know how quick of mind you are, so I took your silence as
recognition of the natural good sense of the idea.

Think of it:  the majority
party of the legislature would be forced to develop a relationship with the
voters about issues of taxing and spending.  
The voters are not ideologically opposed to taxes-they vote for them
regularly–but they sure as hell don’t want their taxes going to waste.    Only if the state is taking care of its
budgetary business can the legislature justify going to the people for their
assent in taxation.  That’s what Jerry Brown
and the legislature did in their March austerity budget, prior to the tax vote
which never happened.   

This double majority proposal also engages the mind about
what and how to tax, a discussion which has been stymied by ideology rather
than economics and practicality.  What
kind of tax proposals will the public support?  
Are some loopholes so egregious-read:
elective corporation tax apportionment-that people will reject special interest
pleading and close them?  Can those who
seek a gas tax increase to pay for our decaying infrastructure make their case
persuasively to the voters?  Or should
they have to write a special interest ballot measure to do so, as is the case

Perhaps even more significantly, this mechanism would permit
major tax reform proposals-take note, Think Long and CaForward-to wend their
way through scrutiny in the legislative process and then go to the people.  If they are really good proposals, they might
get 2/3 support and not be taken to a public vote, but would have a fail-safe
if 2/3 does not occur.    Such an option would generate a many-sided
discussion among all possible interests and the public in the tax system.    You apparently
would rather see paid-for ballot measures to raise taxes, but as you know those
are virtually always earmarked by one interest or another-adding to rather than
solving  the budget problem we face.

I admit, Joel,  that you
have legitimate criticisms about going back to the ballot again and again.   So, will
you engage the discussion about the issues which need to be fleshed out as SCA
15 (Loni Hancock-D) moves its way through the legislature?   Are
there a reasonable set of limitations on the use of the double majority process
,  relative to long-term budget
solutions, deficit reduction,  and frequency
(or infrequency) of use  that would allow
you to go with your first reaction that this is worth considering?    I
doubt it, because it might make government more functional, not to mention that
the voters-dare I say it-might actually tax the rich a little more.  Or they may not, since they have also rejected
that option at different times.  That’s

But you’re wrong about one thing: this idea is not
attractive for some folks on my side of the political street.  There’s a view that with reapportionment and
"top two" primary, there will be enough centrists in the legislature that 2/3
vote for taxes will be possible.   They are concerned that If legislators had the
ability to send the difficult tax decision to the ballot, they will duck the 2/3
tax vote and take the easy way out.    Easier
for the politicians, maybe, but not for taxes: 
the double majority is, as Loni Hancock noted, a tough gauntlet to run.

Those who think this is a good idea are the voters, by over
2 to 1.  Most interesting, support and
opposition is consistent across ideological and party lines, with broad support
everywhere.  This is precisely what Jerry
Brown had in mind when he told voters he would take taxes to the ballot to
resolve the budget crisis, a position in touch with the broad middle of the
voters.   It will probably take the
Governor’s leadership to get this historic reform to the ballot in 2012. 

So, I don’t expect that any idea that might lift the
chokehold on the tax system held by the Grover Norquist minority would be of
interest to you.  But while taxpayer
right to vote/double majority may not be a perfect solution to our budget and
tax dilemma, it is ultimately a fair historical compromise-a majority of both
the legislature and the people as an alternative to, not a replacement for, super-majority
for taxes– whose time perhaps has come.