We’ve been pretty critical of the so-called 21st Century Commission for a while now. We were skeptical when Bush acolyte Gerald Parsky signed up as chair and rather unsurprised when the commission staff posted a powerpoint slidedeck with their plan (PDF) which would lead to the Latvia-zation of California. In other words, the commission’s staff plan shifted the tax burden off those making 100K+ and to lower income earners, in the name of “decreasing volatility.” As if decreasing the progressiveness of our already fairly regressive system is the only way to do that, or even a good way.
But, today we get news, via Dan Walters, that former Assemblyman Fred Keeley has a plan to offer up another plan. The so-called “Blue Plan” which apparently has the support of at least one other member, Chris Edley, the Dean of Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law.
Keeley and Boalt Hall School of Law Dean Christopher Edley Jr. are drafting the blue plan for presentation to the commission next week in a direct challenge to Parsky, who has been pushing his vision of tax reform very hard. “I don’t think you get a consensus product by driving a stake on one side,” Keeley said.
As of yet, the details of any “blue plan” are murky with the possibility of a carbon tax and changes to Prop 13 being raised. But the mere existence of an alternative plan, no matter what it entails, is a good sign.
Parsky, as Walters points out, has been pushing extremely hard for his plan of Bush-style tax shifting from the wealthy to the middle class. Until this point, the plan seemed to be steamrolling through the commission without much of a sense of teamwork so much as a sense of inevitability. With the mere concept of an alternative plan, that diminishes.
But, I want to take one more look at the Commission itself. Peruse the member list. On the Legislative side you have
|Edward De La Rosa – President of De La Rosa & Co., a leading source of capital for public and private infrastructure projects in California.
|Christopher Edley, Jr. – Dean of Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law
|George Halvorson – chairman and chief executive officer of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals since 2002
|Jennifer Ito – policy education director of SCOPE, a non-profit working to reduce barriers for lower and working class families
|Fred Keeley – former Assemblyman and Santa Cruz County Treasurer
|Monica Lozano – Publisher of La Opinión
|Richard Pomp – tax expert and professor
Hardly a group of wild-eyed DFHs there. On the other side, you have
|Gerald Parsky – Bush “Ranger”, Chair
|Ruben Barrales – CEO of San Diego Chamber of Commerce
|Michael Boskin – Republican adviser to the GOP-led Congress and Schwarzenegger
|John Cogan – senior fellow at the Hoover Institution
|William Hauck – Chair of the Business Roundtable, an organization of CEOs
|Becky Morgan – former Republican State Senator from Los Altos Hills (a wealthy Silicon Valley suburb)
|Curt Pringle – divisive former Republican Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle of Orange County
The Legislature picked a center-left experts on issues of taxation, the law, and social justice. I won’t deny that some of them are fairly liberal, but you also have the CEO of an insurance plan and tax professor in there. The governor’s appointment includes two former Republican legislators, one of whom is, shall we say, an outsized personality, and a slew of Bush-minded anti-tax “business” types.
In other words, there was a big ol’ rock on this scale. That’s not to say that you couldn’t get a decent result, it’s just that it would be an uphill battle and something of a surprise.