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California's Choice: Clarity or Gridlock

By Debra Saunders - June 14, 2011

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Will there be a deal? It's possible. The GOP 5 released a statement that noted "significant agreement" on their reforms. Now, especially after the state has collected $6.6 billion in unanticipated revenue, they won't vote for Brown's "bridge tax" -- as a temporary "legislatively mandated tax increase ... violates the governor's own pledge."

It defies logic that the same Republicans who did not vote for a June ballot measure now would vote to raise taxes before a ballot measure -- in order to let voters decide later.

But there are reasons to do so. For one thing, like Democrats who have snatched back big chunks of Brown's proposed spending cuts, GOP lawmakers aren't very good at voting for cuts.

Voters rejected a similar tax extension by a 2-to-1 ratio in 2009. GOP strategist Mitch Zak said Republicans should be thinking, "My reforms have a chance of passing. Tax extensions don't."

Democrats clearly know they could lose. In March, when Brown said he wanted a special election as soon as possible, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said it "ought to be as far off as is reasonably possible."

Brown believes Californians will approve his tax package. If he is right, at least voters will have chosen to pay for the government they've selected -- and with broad-based taxes so that everyone pays. And there would be clarity.

Without a clean vote, Brown predicts a "war of all against all" -- as special interests trammel the state in an unending battle to make sure that only the other side gives. In such a world, problems do not get solved.

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dsaunders@sfchronicle.com

Copyright 2011, Creators Syndicate Inc.

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