California's Choice: Clarity or Gridlock

California's Choice: Clarity or Gridlock

By Debra Saunders - June 14, 2011

When he ran for governor, Democrat Jerry Brown made a promise to voters -- "no new taxes without voter approval." That pledge was what you would call a gimmick. Brown knew he would have to woo or squeeze a few Republicans in order to get a the two-thirds vote necessary to qualify a tax hike for the ballot. On taking office, Brown promptly proposed a June special election to put an extension of temporary increases in state income tax, sales tax and car fees before voters.

Many pundits applauded the wily Democrat's tactic of proposing a tax vote, but only so that he could keep his campaign pledge.

But it may turn out to be a dud. Brown still has not managed to nudge four Republicans -- two from the Assembly, two from the Senate -- to vote for his tax plan.

In March, a two-thirds budget vote would have resulted in a special election in June, before the sales and car tax extensions sunset. I thought a handful of Republican realists should have voted to put the Brown plan on the ballot. But five GOP moderates wanted to "let the voters decide" on their pet measures -- a spending cap and pension reform -- and that killed any deal.

Wednesday is the official deadline for the Legislature to pass a budget. If the Legislature fails, no more paychecks until the job is done.

Now the Brownies are pushing for a September special election -- with the car and sales tax extensions continuing temporarily, but one less year of the income tax hike -- until they are approved or rejected. Brown warned Monday that without the added cash, the state may begin "a decline that at some point becomes irreversible."

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Copyright 2011, Creators Syndicate Inc.

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