I will be on KRXA 540 AM this morning at 8 to discuss this, as well as to recap the California election results
There’s been a consensus among California progressives that as far as our state was concerned, the 2008 election was either a disappointment or a disaster. Silver linings are few. But there was a significant development that should not only give us hope for the future – but MUST give us direction and focus over the next few weeks as the budget battle resumes in Sacramento.
As I explained back in August, conservatives were planning to unite around the issue of taxes in this election. We saw it here in California when right-wingers like Joel Fox were concern trolling small businesses and working Californians to vote against badly needed government programs like Measure R, the LA mass transit expansion. Nor did it help when credulous journalists repeated this framing themselves.
These anti-tax politics were part of a larger effort to revive the policies of Herbert Hoover and prevent a New Deal from coming to California (little known fact: California never had a New Deal the first time around either). Their argument is that instead of using government to provide a safety net and stimulate economic growth, we should cut back government in a time of crisis, no matter the social or economic cost.
On Tuesday Californians resoundingly rejected these arguments. The Reason Foundation and the Howard Jarvis Association threw everything they had at Proposition 1A but it passed anyway and we’re gonna build that SUPERTRAIN.
Voters also approved a number of tax increases, which is all the more stunning because of the absurd 66.7% requirement. In addition to LA’s Measure R, Sonoma and Marin counties approved Measure Q, a tax increase to build a passenger rail line near the Highway 101 corridor. Santa Clara County voters may have approved a BART sales tax. Voters in Imperial and Stanislaus counties renewed transit taxes. Here in Monterey County we fell just short of approving a transit tax – 62% is a significant show of support.
Other tax proposals fared well. San José approved a telephone tax. Alameda County approved a parcel tax to pay for AC Transit bus service. Voters in small towns in Monterey County rejected efforts to repeal utility and sales taxes. Nine of 13 tax proposals in LA County were approved.
This should not actually surprise us. Polls have shown that Californians DO support higher taxes including as a solution to our budget crisis. They understand the value of taxes for government services. Mass transit, schools, libraries, police and fire departments – all those things create economic value, jobs, and save people money. Californians get that.
It also helps when a specific tax is connected to a specific service. State legislators are loath to do this, wanting more control over the general fund and the revenues going into it. I do not think that is the right approach to take, at least not until the structural revenue shortfall is ended.
Sacramento Democrats would do well to remember that when Arnold Schwarzenegger calls them into special session today. Mike Villines is already throwing down the no new taxes gauntlet.
Democrats should ignore his concern trolling (and that of journalists like Kathleen Pender, who doesn’t know what she’s talking about). Conservative anti-tax neo-Hoover whining is the mouse that never roared in the election. It doesn’t move the electorate the way they claim it does. Californians understand that during this economic crisis taxes for services are the right way to grow the economy.