People say you can’t get Republicans to agree to tax increases, and they’re right.

But the same is true of Democrats. They can’t agree to tax increases either, at least not in California.

For the second time in three years, an opportunity to raise more state revenues could be missed – and it will be Democrats, not Republicans who blocked it.

You may ask: What am I talking about?

Political memories are short in California, but all the way back in 2009, Democrats and Democratic interest groups, including some leading public employee unions, prevented tax increases. Specifically, they opposed ballot measures that had been negotiated by Gov. Schwarzenegger, legislative Democrats and a handful of legislative Republicans.

One of those measures would have extended two years of temporary tax increases for four years – covering the budget year we are now in. But while Democratic legislative leaders supported the measures, most of the unions (with some exceptions, including CTA) either opposed the measure or failed to support them.

Why? For reasons that sound very familiar to 2012 years.

The temporary tax increases didn’t produce enough money, was one of the arguments. The tax increases were only temporary, when permanent increases were needed. The governor was tying the tax increases to budget reform measures that the unions didn’t like (in Schwarzenegger’s case, a rainy day fund and revenue smoothing limit; in Brown’s case, a realignment).

Back in 2009, the unions defeated a deal, believing that they’d get tax increases once they got a Democrat into office. Now, in year 2, they don’t have those tax increases, and have seen important programs suffer cuts that would have been significantly less severe if Schwarzenegger’s measures had won.

You’d think that Democrats could get together again, but they can’t. Brown’s flawed measure was filed late. It faces two competing measures that have their virtues, and their faults. The Democrats can’t agree on an approach, because too many of their number are making the perfect the enemy of the good.

Maybe this explains a strange bit of California history: tax increases have taken place under Republican governors (Schwarzenegger, Wilson, Reagan) and not Democrats. The Democrats, it seems, can’t get along well enough to get this done.