State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg dropped by my public policy class at Pepperdine yesterday. He told the students he thought the title of his speech should be: “Why Joel Fox is wrong.”


I have been on the opposite sides of many a policy debate with Senator Steinberg over the years, but I also respect his passion and dedication. I appreciated his spending time with the students and telling them about the policy and political world from his perspective – obviously different from mine, particularly during this election season.

One lesson I try to emphasize with the students is that they have to understand the politics around any issue if they hope to achieve policy goals. We had an illustration of that concept yesterday and the teacher was Governor Jerry Brown.

In yesterday’s profile of the governor in the Los Angeles Times, Brown said that opponents of his initiative tax plan (Prop 30) have valid points in their criticism. However, he also stated he sought a way to his goal with “as few obstacles as possible.”

As he admitted to the San Jose Mercury News not long ago there are flaws with his proposal but he thought it was “the most politically expedient solution,” as the newspaper put it, to convince voters to raise taxes.

Once again proving that policy does not live outside the realm of politics.

However, the governor should be better than that. He certainly knows better as he has expressed to the press on numerous occasions. The policy he is backing will likely make budget matters worse because Prop 30 adds another layer to the state’s notorious volatile tax system, the reason for our rollercoaster budgets.

More politics over policy showed up in the first television ad released yesterday by the pro Proposition 38 forces. Prop 38 would raise income taxes to fund schools. The ad tells viewers that “politicians say unless we send more tax dollars to Sacramento, they’ll cut education again.”

That is a clear reference to the governor’s Proposition 30 and its provision for trigger cuts if Prop 30 fails.

What the new Prop 38 ad does not say is where this new money for schools comes from. The word “tax” is not mentioned once.

Apparently, the Prop 38 ad makers thought mentioning the word “tax” might interfere with achieving their policy goal. They, too, understand the politics surrounding the policy.