Republicans make one last stand to drown government



By Steven T. Jones

Democrats in the California Legislature say they’re ready to take the gloves off and start aggressively attacking the longstanding “no new taxes” pledge that their Republican colleagues signed with American for Tax Reform, which threatens to shut down the deficit-plagued state government.
“Every Republican has signed a pledge to someone who wants to drown government in a bathtub, Grover Norquist. So nothing will happen until we rip up those pledges,” Sen. Mark Leno told me, noting the devastating combination of that pledge and the two-thirds vote requirement to pass a budget in California, which only two other states have. That margin is just three Republicans in each the Assembly and Senate. “Six human beings are bringing us to our knees.”
“No matter how nice the Republican next to me is, or how gay friendly, they’re doctrinaire and they have everyone by the cojones,” Assembly member Tom Ammiano told me.
Senate Republican leader Dave Cogdill yesterday put out a statement saying, “Raising taxes doesn’t solve the underlying problem of California’s budget, which is the state spends more than it takes in.” I’m awaiting return calls from both Cogdill’s office and the ATR, but Cogdill’s statement is simply untrue on its face. Raising taxes does indeed address the problem of the state spending more than it takes in.

Leno called the tax pledge “childish and irresponsible,” and akin to Democrats saying they won’t consider any spending cuts, which they wouldn’t do (except, perhaps, to get Republicans to bargain in good faith). Nonetheless, every Republican in the Legislature has signed it. “What kind of honest negotiations can there be when they’ve signed that pledge,” Leno said.
He has reached out to CEOs and business leaders to have them try to talk some sense into the Republicans. Ironically, despite the Republicans rationalizing their pledge as not wanting to hurt economic growth, the collapse of the bond market, $40 billion deficit that California faces over the next 18 month, and the budget impasse threaten to cut off all state spending and send the already weakened economy into a nose dive. In fact, President-elect Barack Obama has proposed increased government spending on infrastructure as an economic stimulus plan, similar to how FDR pulled the country out of the Great Depresssion.
Leno said that even the Chambers of Commerce in San Francisco and Los Angeles are advocating for a reinstatement of the vehicle license fee, something that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has voiced openness to even though his crusade against it helped sweep him into office five years ago. The Legislative Analyst’s Office figures show the lack of a VLF has cost the state more than $37 billion since it was repealed.
The budget situation is so desperate the California legislative leaders today traveled to Washington D.C. to ask Congress for a bailout. That offered a glimmer of hope, yet on the state front, negotiations between the Governor’s Office and Legislation Republicans collapsed amid angry back and forth accusations.
“There is a failure of leadership on Arnold’s part,” Ammiano said. “I’m not giving [Mayor Gavin] Newsom an A+, but he at least came to the board.”
Ammiano believes that San Francisco will be able to work out its budget woes, as painful as they may be. “There has to be transparency and everyone at the table, then you’ll get a budget,” he said of the city. But at the state level, the stakes are higher and the current stalemate more intractable. “I think the state’s road is very, very difficult, and the city’s road is very difficult.”


So easy to use a tiny minority as a scapegoat isn't it?

Posted by missiondweller on Dec. 12, 2008 @ 12:49 pm

Do you get what I'm saying, Steven, or do you think that I'm just talking out of my ass?

Posted by Matt Stewart on Dec. 14, 2008 @ 4:47 pm

Instead of thinking about reforming Prop 13, why not propose a progressive tax regime that raises barriers to politicians raising taxes and assessments to nurture their political base but prevents disruption and degradation of essential public services in times of economic contraction.

This is the first real test of prop 13 under severe economic stress and as such, might just well play out with a consensus for reform if prop 13 causes a severe curtailing of essential public services.

Prop 13 is flawed but passed for good reason. Any viable path forward must legitimate the rationale behind prop 13 while amending it's worst aspects.

Posted by marc on Dec. 14, 2008 @ 9:04 pm

I think we should call the Republicans' bluff and just slash the budget - everything. Then put a notice on every closed school, library and road with the names of the Republicans who signed the "no new taxes" pledge. When our economy continues to tank and people feel the pinch, maybe then they will get it.
Sure, I would feel bad for the folks who would suffer the most under massive cuts, but these folks don't even vote. Especially in state elections. Just look at the stats. The voters in this state are upper middle class white homeowners. Most Californians were silly enough to think Arnold Schwarzzenegger would be different. I knew otherwise.
California has been fighting this insane budget battle for too long. Maybe when the folks in Orange County start to notice their roads falling apart, they'll see the light.
I agree with publicly financed elections, but don't think it will help much. We have a two-party stranglehold in this state and in the nation, and they just won't let anybody outside of their corrupt circle in.

Posted by Erika on Dec. 12, 2008 @ 11:28 am

Because Prop 13 facilitates real estate bubbles?

I think most people want to nail you conman real estate wheeler dealers.

Posted by sutton on Dec. 15, 2008 @ 11:37 am

Nothing in the article removes the possibility of repealing prop 13. It only notes that until we remove the no-new-taxists from the lege we can't begin to consider which taxes to raise, including prop 13.

Regarding gerrymandering... that's a red herring. People in this state self-segregate. Conservative districts are rabidly so because conservatives live among conservatives and reinforce their worldviews. Same with liberals. Most of the time gerrymandering makes sense because it separates districts into culturally distinct areas rather than using arbitrary county lines.

You want real competition and moderate candidates? Give us clean, publicly-financed elections.

Posted by question mark? on Dec. 12, 2008 @ 12:23 pm


The Democrats in Sacramento (who can put propositions on ballots and can raise enormous amount of money to advocate them) have had 30 years to repeal or at least modify Prop. 13. It's older than me. Who should be thinking of future generations? And to be honest, that whole "if nothing else, think of the children" excuse is a total cop-out that essentially ends discussion and meaningful debate. Just because I disagree with you doesn't mean I don't cherish the future of my descendents ... or the elderly, either, for that matter. And keep in mind that there were plenty of good economic times between 1978 and now. How many more years are we going to have to give excuses?

Another thing, I don't know why you and your colleagues do this, but you always turn it into a Republican vs. Democrats thing. I get the sense that if someone happens to label himself a Republican, you immediately make him Hitler and if he labels himself a Democrat, well, he gets a license to kill.

I've given a lot of thought to this and I've come to genuinely think that it is a low-self confidence thing and/or a degenerative process of acclimation. After 35 years of increasingly conservative governments, your political center of balance has become so out of whack that all you have left to demand of your politicians is that they not be Republicans.

I'm not saying that everything needs to change now or that Prop. 13 should be repealed tomorrow, but at a certain point you have to fucking stand up for yourself.

Another thing, I don't think you should immediately assume that people aren't open to trying new things. Desperate times call for desperate measures. If nothing else, the Depression taught us that we are capable of it.

Posted by Matt Stewart (formerly expatriate) on Dec. 12, 2008 @ 4:18 pm

This isn't about scapegoating or blaming. It's about taking an honest look at where the mindless anti-tax position has gotten us and what that selfish stand is taking from future generations. Yes, it would be great if Prop. 13 was reformed, but Matt, Democrats can't "abolish" it. Only voters can and most polls show that's an uphill battle, particularly at a time when people are already being forced out of their homes.
The bottom line is it's a small, conservative minority that has disproportionate power to dictate the state's budget. It's not scapegoating to demand that they bargain in good faith during a time of fiscal emergency.

Posted by Steven T. Jones on Dec. 12, 2008 @ 2:02 pm

Oh, Steve, bless your little heart! In the midst of all your frenzied Republican-bashing, you fail to address the fact that Democrats refuse to abolish Prop. 13, partially dismantle it, or just merely set the stage to do something -- ANYTHING! -- about it. In the mean time, why in god's name would Republicans agree to raise taxes if they will immediately get recalled by their hyper-conservative, neo-nazi constituents that Democrats have gerrymandered them to?

You know something? I think that Democrats secretly LOVE prop. 13 because it gives them an excuse to scapegoat Republicans year after year after year and people like you keep eating it up and going right along with it. The Democrats have it pretty good -- why would they do what needs to be done?

I know that you mean well but, let's face it, you are being a codependent -- something someone in your profession should, under no circumstances, be. Instead of badgering the hapless, moronic Codgill, start grilling Mark Leno and Tom Ammiano and agitating for the kind of change that we all know is necessary but for some reason keep pussy-footing around.

Posted by Matt Stewart (formerly expatriate) on Dec. 11, 2008 @ 7:01 pm

No new taxes in minnesota puts bridges in the water, gives us david strom saying don't support mass transit but give everyone the old clunkers that people were getting rid of don't repair the roads and keep shifting monies around to approximate an attempt to balance the budget. Now, the minion of david strom, norquist is on the road polishing the crotches of the monied king makers...just before the bill comes due for the schools as a result of shifting rather than paying for the schools teachers and all of the people who support the state. State workers were given days off without pay. We've yet to hear if the governor participated in the involuntary pay cuts he mandated for everyone else.

Posted by charles williams on Aug. 25, 2009 @ 7:58 am