We are now approaching May with no timetable for a vote on tax extensions, and we all know the ramifications of an expiration…$12-15 billion in additional cuts. The well-identified problem at this point is one of timing. There simply isn’t enough time to get those to the people before we start losing money.
There had been news of interest groups pushing to change strategy to a legislative vote, and at this point, it is hard to see, functionally, how we make a vote happen. Tim Rutten makes the point that the Legislature just needs to do it themselves in today’s LA Times:
When Brown made his promise – a pandering nod to the direct democracy fallacy – he could not have anticipated that he’d be totally blocked by the minority party, whose philosophy of government has been overwhelmingly rejected by California’s voters. Those same legislators can be counted on to obstruct a legislative approach, but Brown has formidable political tools and the proven willingness to use them.
In the meantime, a Times/USC Dornsife Poll released Sunday found that more than half the state’s voters agree with Brown’s approach to the fiscal crisis and want to balance the budget with a combination of painful spending cuts and moderate tax increases. Barely 3 in 10 backed the plan advanced by the Republican legislators to balance the budget by cutting $14 billion more than Brown already has proposed – reductions that would leave education and the already badly frayed social safety net in ruins.
One of the realities our long infatuation with direct democracy has obscured is the fact that to govern is to choose. Jerry Brown now needs to decide between an ill-advised campaign promise and the common good of all Californians. If the choice doesn’t seem clear, we all ought to take a hard look in the mirror.(LA Times)
There is one difficulty that Rutten didn’t really delve into in this column, the problem of actually winning an election. While the numbers show that less that 30% of Californians really support an all-cuts budget, that doesn’t mean that tax extensions (or really, new taxes) have smooth sailing. Unfortunately the California voter is really rather hard to read, no matter how many polls you see:
So when 75% of California voters say they’re following the Great Budget Debate but only 16% are aware that state spending has declined by billions in the last three years, you’d be well advised to take voters’ opinions with a big honkin’ chunk of salt.
It makes sense that six in 10 voters in the latest LA Times/USC survey – including (knuckledragger alert) 51% of Republicans and conservatives – agree with Gov. Jerry Brown that there ought to be a special election to decide whether to renew increases in income and sales taxes and vehicle license fees. …
Just because people say they want to vote on the budget, however, doesn’t mean they have any actual knowledge about the budget, the budget process, where California raises and spends the most money, how big public employee pensions are or any other actual factoid. Remember, one of our three rules of politics is, “Nobody knows anything.” (CalBuzz)
To be clear, we have gotten some important advancements through the legislature, but in general, our plebiscites have done more harm than good. While we enjoy the privilege of voting, we don’t always take seriously that responsibility. I don’t say this to blame voters, but more to empathize. Following the budget fight is really a full-time job. And we the people shouldn’t be responsible for that. That is why we elect people to go to Sacramento. They have a job there, and they should do it.