Most of the central action in California’s political world this year revolved around attempts to deal with the state budget crisis. Governor Jerry Brown, seeking to fulfill a campaign promise, wanted the legislature to put tax increases on the ballot. Republicans legislators balked, although some negotiated for spending and pension reforms in exchange for their vote. The governor needed Republicans to support his plan because of the requirement for a two-thirds vote.
The two-thirds vote to raise taxes has been attacked often since it became part of the California constitution in 1978. However, every time the two-thirds vote to raise taxes has appeared in ballot measures since then, voters have reaffirmed it.
At various times over the course of the year the governor tried to blame outside influences from keeping Republican legislators from either voting for a tax increase or voting to put taxes on the ballot. In one instance, he pointed to Americans for Tax Reform president, Grover Norquist, creator of the No Tax pledge. Another time he accused Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association of being the puppet master pulling the legislators’ strings.
But it is the constitutional provision requiring a two-thirds vote to raise taxes that has controlled the fiscal debate.
Now a half-dozen tax increase initiatives and maybe more have been filed to appear on the November 2012 ballot, all to get around the two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes.
That one constitutional provision has dominated the political year in Sacramento and set up potential big ballot battles for next year. For those reasons, I nominate the two-thirds vote to raise taxes for this year’s Black Bart Award.
For runner-up this year, I would join my fellow Fox and Hounds blogger, John Wildermuth, and suggest that state Controller John Chiang is worthy of consideration.
Chiang has turned the obscure controller’s office into a powerful position standing up to Governor Schwarzenegger’s payroll decisions last year and declaring the legislature’s first budget this year unbalanced, therefore denying legislator’s pay.
Sitting as California’s fiscal watchdog Chiang is in a position to oversee many government follies and he has now established power within his office to act upon them if he so chooses.