Governor Brown Now Seeks November Tax Ballot Initiative?

Jerry-BrownWhile it remains a clear Plan B, it is becoming increasingly clear that Governor Jerry Brown is moving closer to a contingency that would circumvent the need for two-thirds legislative support and move toward spending the millions it would require to circulate a petition for the November ballot, placing his plan before the voters at that point.

As recently as yesterday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Brown Administration said that the Governor remains committed to negotiating with the Republicans in the Assembly and Senate – needing two votes in each house from Republicans – and still believes he can reach agreement.

However, time is running out to get a measure on the ballot and the Governor said yesterday in a speech to labor groups that a vote would occur regardless of what the Republicans say.

According to the Sacramento Bee, The Democratic governor is more likely to pursue an initiative than to try putting taxes on the ballot through a simple majority in the Legislature.”

According to their sources, the Governor believes “business groups are more likely to support a ballot initiative than any maneuver for a majority vote in the Legislature” and “thinks business groups fear a majority tax vote may set a precedent for other taxes.”

Such a ballot measure would apparently include concessions to conservative interests including regulatory reform and a spending cap.

This morning’s Sacramento Bee added, “Republicans want pension cuts, a cap on future state spending and regulatory changes that help businesses as part of a deal to place taxes on the ballot. Democrats say some ideas are negotiable, but the most extensive changes on pensions and a spending cap are non-starters.”

The Bee argues that the signature gathering process would take months and millions of dollars to gather sufficient signatures to qualify for a ballot initiative, making it a plan that would have to be implemented in November.

But the problem is what to do with the taxes, if approved, and how they would balance the budget.  The Bee argues that by November, “the state will have lost one-third of the additional sales and vehicle tax revenues it could have raised through a June election. It is also unclear how such an initiative would treat income taxes, since it would be hard to sell a retroactive income tax hike in the 11th month of a tax year.”

The Bee also argues it would be a very tight window to even qualify for November at this point.  Given the length of time for the Attorney General’s office to process an initiative process, the proponents would have to submit signatures by late May, which would give the Governor a month or less to gather signatures.

There are political obstacles as well.  School districts would have to layoff teachers anyway because there is no assurance they would have the funds to cover further cuts from the state.

The Democrats would have a difficult problem trying to portray this measure as bipartisan, though, as the Bee argues, “Democrats are counting on business support to win over moderates.”

Furthermore, because the tax increase would have lapsed, it would be more difficult to sell this as a tax extension rather than a tax increase.  Polling indicates that, while voters support a tax extension, support drops significantly when they perceive it as a tax increase rather than an extension.

The Bee weighs the possibility of a majority vote in June, as well.

They write, “Democrats have considered placing tax extensions on the ballot using majority-vote powers granted by voters last year in Proposition 25. That may open lawmakers up to criticism that they are exploiting Proposition 25, but Democrats would say they are putting the question before voters rather than raising taxes themselves.”

However, “This route would run afoul of the legislative counsel’s opinion, which said placing taxes on the ballot that way would be an unconstitutional delegation of authority. But under a different legal theory, the Legislature may argue it could delegate such questions to voters because it believes the electorate has ultimate authority. Undoubtedly, this route would face legal challenges from anti-tax groups.”

The Bee does not discuss the third option, which would be an all-cuts budget and would further cut education, social services and the prisons.

Clearly, the Democrats would like to avoid the all-cuts budget, but the other two paths without Republican support would be perilous at best.

Personally, I would recommend the Democrats put pension reform on the table, propose the Governor’s election plan, and see where that gets them.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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23 Comments

  1. rusty49

    “This morning’s Sacramento Bee added, “Republicans want pension cuts, a cap on future state spending and regulatory changes that help businesses as part of a deal to place taxes on the ballot. Democrats say some ideas are negotiable, but the most extensive changes on pensions and a spending cap are non-starters.”

    It’s spelled out right there. What the GOP is asking for in this economic environment sounds very reasonable. Of course the Democrats don’t want pension cuts because they’re beholden to the public unions and what’s wrong with a spending cap? I still say Gov. Brown has put pension reform on the back burner because he doesn’t plan to ever tackle it.

  2. E Roberts Musser

    If the Democrats are not willing to negotiate w Republicans on pension reform, then the Democrats need to fish or cut bait instead of pointing fingers away from themselves…

  3. AdRemmer

    [quote]But under a different legal theory, the Legislature may argue it could delegate such questions to voters because it believes the electorate has ultimate authority.[/quote]

    Accordingly, voters would also posses authority to dictate pension reform for public service workers.

  4. Mr.Toad

    Brown should have abandoned negotiating with the Repugs on day one. He has made the same mistake as Obama and it cost him too much time. It should be clear that the R’s have no interest in raising any taxes. They are stuck on Bush’s “Read my lips” position even though Bush realized that to govern responsibly he could not keep the pledge. All of these demands to place the issue before the voters are a smoke screen for not wanting to fix the budget. It is fixable if people approach the problem with good will. Just like in Wisconsin much of the problem is from tax cuts Republicans pushed through. They did so under the 2/3 rule for passing a budget forcing tax cuts that irresponsibly exacerbated the budget problems. Now they are refusing to fix a problem they created by demanding tax cuts that were not sustainable in the first place.

  5. wdf1

    Interesting and amazing piece on GOP legislators (one in particular) refusing to accept certain budget cuts.

    [url]http://www.sacbee.com/2011/03/18/3484479/can-gop-cut-an-all-cuts-budget.html[/url]

  6. Frankly

    wdf1: what is “amazing” about this article? I found it interesting, but not surprising that this one Republican has an opinion about what to cut and what not to cut. Do you expect all Republicans to want to cut everything, and all Democrats to not want to cut anything?

    There seems to be a fundemental differnece in mindset: Democrats supporting more direct payments to individuals and programs and organizations that provide direct services to individuals – and Republicans more in favor of spending on infrastucture and programs that can create jobs so people can take care of themselves. However, there are plenty of gray areas where there might be some room for agreement. Look no further for you explanation for why there can be no cooperation with Republicans when Democrats and their media pals attack any politician because he likes one direct program over others. What this proves to me is that Democrats have the “you are either with us all the way, or you are the enemy”. So be it.

  7. wdf1

    Jeff B: If Republicans want to preserve certain programs, then they need to be willing to compromise on a June vote. Without it it’s an all cuts budget. The article suggests that there oughta be room to compromise, but it’s not happening.

  8. Frankly

    Mr. Toad: Paul Ferrell is a nut job. [url]”http://wallstreetwarzone.com/”[/url]

    But, he is correct, there is class warfare going on. However it is not the wealthy perpetrating the war… it is: the envious class; the “I don’t want to work” class; the “I am smarter so I get to save people from themselves” class; the “entitled” class; the “I don’t get what America is” class, and lastly, my favorite, the “America sucks and I want it to be Europe” class. Most of them are the poorly parented baby boomers and their offspring.

    Here is the secret that Ferrell either doesn’t know, or else, like Arianna Huffington, he just stirs up this type of extreme hateful rhetoric to make some money off all the semi-employed, semi-motivated, over-educated, angry adult-age juveniles out there… the secret is simple: get good at making or doing something that people will pay money for, take risks and work your ass off doing it better and/or cheaper than anyone else, and there is a strong probability that you will become wealthy.

    In this country, the wealthy become poor, and the poor become wealthy every single day of the year.

    There are only five true socio-economic classes of people in this country:

    1 – those that know the secret and go for it;
    2 – those that know the secret and don’t go for it but are still happy;
    3 – those that don’t know the secret yet, but will eventually;
    4 – those burning with much more envy than drive and determination… and angry that someone else doesn’t take better care of them;
    5 – those afflicted with a elite “savers” syndrome, either passive or aggressive, but motivated to maintain a steady supply of people they can train to require their help.

    I think Ferrell, like Michael Moore and Arianna Huffington, are class #1., and they make their wealth exploiting class #4.

    Which class are you?

  9. Frankly

    wdf1: You know and I know that PEU health and pension benefits have to be a big part of the budget solution. Why would the GOP come to the table, if the governor says it will not be on the table?

    This is getting real tired and old… the Democrats gain control blaming the GOP for screwing it up, and they screw it up worse. In California’s case, the legislature has been in Dem/union hands for decades and are to blame for the fiscal mess (despite the finger-pointing at the union-beat-up, faux conservative, Schwarzenegger). Then when the Dem/union team loses power they swtich to complaining that the GOP just blocks progress. Well, the GOP does not agree with what the Democrats call progress… and the evidence is on their side. Unless the Democrats come to the table with more substantive cuts, the GOP does not gain a thing coming to the table. Brown is stuck because he can’t stop stroking the unions.

    Too bad California didn’t elect a Walker and GOP majority in the legistlature, because then we would have seen real Wisconsin-style budget-balancing action.

  10. Frankly

    [i] If Republicans want to preserve certain programs, then they need to be willing to compromise on a June vote.[/i]

    Are you telling me that Democrats don’t want to preserve programs for the disabled? So, you want the apple and I give you the apple. How does that help us negotiation the cost of the nut orchard?

  11. wdf1

    [i]Too bad California didn’t elect a Walker and GOP majority in the legistlature, because then we would have seen real Wisconsin-style budget-balancing action.[/i]

    I don’t think the situation in Wisconsin is settled yet. Walker reached too far.

    [i]Why would the GOP come to the table, if the governor says it will not be on the table? [/i]

    Probably because he will start losing support of Democratic legislators. He’s already had to get them agree to billions in cuts to welfare, Medi-Cal, higher education, etc.

    I understand the nature of political compromise to be that you at least bargain for some movement toward your position. If they preventing some of those cuts is a real priority, then they need to be willing to compromise. If the GOP wants an all-cuts budget, then they don’t have do anything but vote no to anything but cuts. And that appears to be what they’re doing. They just need to make sure that their constituents are on board with that. Brown is proposing the budget that he promised he would. Personally, I would like a chance to vote on something this big.

  12. Frankly

    [url]http://www.sacbee.com/2011/03/15/3475573/dan-walters-brown-gop-budget-talks.html[/url]
    [quote]
    Several of the five Republican senators who had been negotiating with Brown said they hit a rock wall because he – and presumably other Democrats and powerful union allies – balked at major public pension reforms and a tight spending limit. The senators also wanted to cut the extension of temporary income, sales and car taxes, first enacted in 2009, from the five years Brown wants to some briefer period.”[/quote]

    So, Brown would lose support of Democrats in bed with the unions… and this is t GOP’s fault?

    This is turning out just how most of us concerned about Brown back in office thought it would play. He and most of the Dem legistlature is bought and paid for by the unions. It is the history of political union payola that has caused most of this fiscal mess, yet he cannot touch it because of the political consequences. Democrats have painted themselves into a corner, and they are complaining that the Republicans don’t come bail them out. Priceless.

  13. wdf1

    To Jeff: Brown is on record supporting pension reform. Given Brown’s history, I happen to think he would follow through with this. I also understand that he thinks it’s more important to get a balanced budget through before dealing with pension reform. But I doubt Brown can push it through together with this budget. It requires a different coalition of legislators to pass. But clearly some Republicans want to do that now while they still have leverage. They either don’t trust him, or they would be just as happy with an all-cuts budget.

  14. Frankly

    You can trust what politicians do, but not what they say. There is no reason to NOT put pensions on the table other than politics. I have read it in many places, that unions and Democrats in bed with the unions see this as a temporary problem… once CA economy comes back, they expect it to go back to business as usual. I think Brown is banking on that with them.

    However, the CA pension liability is a big ugly monster that we were talking about well before the financial meltdown in 2008. There is leverage to deal with it now. We are supposed to have a governor with union-credibility to get them to accept changes that put them back to reasonable.

    I am about as displeases with Brown as I expected when he was elected. The only light in the tunnel I see is Brown playing the big-bad-GOP card to its maximum so that he is not as culpable for the eventual concession to cut more.

  15. wdf1

    [i] I think Brown is banking on that with them.[/i]

    I think we’ll have to disagree on this point. Brown doesn’t plan any political future beyond this office. I think it frees him to do whatever he thinks will work. If labor supported him, it was because they didn’t want Whitman; probably not for undying love of Brown.

    In 2012, both parties will have to deal with Prop 20 redistricting and Prop 14 open primaries. By this point I think politicians will be stumbling over themselves to show how moderate they are, how they can work with others, as well as adjusting positions to account for some new constituents. It will be interesting to see what we end up with.

  16. medwoman

    JB

    You seem to have left out one major group in your list of “classes”. That is the class of people who genuinely need help. A few examples:
    The disabled. The elderly who have outlived their entire families. The children of people who could not initially, or cannot now support them given loss of job, health, spouse …. Should I go on ? Is there anyone who does not believe this group exists ?
    It is easy for both sides to point fingers than for either to come up with viable solutions.

  17. wdf1

    [i]Too bad California didn’t elect a Walker and GOP majority in the legistlature, because then we would have seen real Wisconsin-style budget-balancing action.[/i]

    “All politics is local”

    Wisconsin: School cuts raise doubts among some GOP voters who don’t want to see local districts suffer

    [url]http://www.washingtonpost.com/school-cuts-raise-doubts-among-some-gop-voters-who-dont-want-to-see-local-districts-suffer/2011/03/24/ABKo77PB_story.html[/url]

  18. Frankly

    medwoman: I did mistakenly leave out that “class”. And, I agree that we need to cover the people that truly need help. My Mid West family produced a product for 60 years and hired special needs people to do the work. Certainly there are people unable to work or care for themselves, but I have the opinion that it is a fraction of what our government classifies as needy. For example, I would support tax and spend to subsidize businesses being able to hire special needs people.

    Another new funding crisis looming is the state disability funds. Puerto Rico for example has about 60% of the adult population collecting some type of disability money.

    There are truly needy people, and there are those that have used their enterprising skills to sponge from the government instead of using it to go earn a living. I don’t know what causes people to want to help people by making them dependent.

  19. medwoman

    JB

    And I don’t know, outside an Ayn Rand novel, where you got the idea that anyone wants to ” help people by making the dependent. “
    Have you ever met anyone who states that is their goal, or are you making assumption about their motives based on your own belief system ?
    Your having an opinion about the percentage of who is truly needy does not make it so any more than my probably larger estimate makes that fact. And why exactly should the government subsidize private companies for doing the right thing such as your family ‘s policy of hiring special needs workers? If all private businesses did this voluntarily, there would be no need for the “tax and spend” you seem to abhor. I would be completely up for that, but don’t see it happening on a large scale.

  20. Frankly

    [i]” don’t know, outside an Ayn Rand novel, where you got the idea that anyone wants to ” help people by making the dependent. “[/i]

    medwoman:

    How else do you explain perpetual generations of the same family who live on welfare and food stamps and consistently vote for Democrat politicians? Just like the druggy and the dealer, they seem to need each other. These politicians are not served very well when their beneficiaries break the cycle and begin to earn their own prosperity… just like the drug dealer is not served well when his customers lose their addiction. You can’t be a champion of the needy when there are not enough needy to serve.

    I won’t go into details about my childhood and family because it is irrelevant with respect to my economic present and future. Let’s just say I have some real experience being disadvantaged and poor by today’s bleeding heat liberal labels; and I also have plenty of direct experience seeing what easy government handouts do to destroy others’ individual self determination and self confidence.

    I am fine providing a hand up, and increasing community assistance to help more people care for themselves. I am 100% in favor of doing everything we can to give children the best education possible as measured by their ability to become economically self-sufficient adults. I have no problem providing community assistance to the critically ill, and those that are disabled beyond the ability to care for themselves.

    Frankly, I think the main difference between our perspectives on this topic is that I set the bar higher in terms of expectations for what people are capable to accomplish. I think we are a country growing more lazy and entitled and I blame the media and the left which has given too much political power to people prone to emotive thinking rather than rational thinking. My heart bleeds at the thought of a single child not provided the absolute best education. This education should include the constant message that he is as good as anyone else and he can accomplish anything if he develops an honest passion for certain goals; he works hard and is persistent in his pursuits. The child will hear the oposite message when the left-leaners say he is a disadvantaged victim and requires additional care. His spirit will be broken while he grows dependent on them instead of himself. He would be better off biting the hand that feeds him, but instead he is sufficiently brainwashed to blame the wrong others for his problems.

    I would much rather subsidize infrastructure that allows business to thrive, and to subsidize a business that hires special need people. You seem to prefer just giving handouts to people.

  21. medwoman

    JB

    1) I doubt that “druggies” bother to vote at all whether for Republicans or Democrats. Your evidence would be ?
    2) you seem to assume you know peoples motivations. By your logic, doctors would want to keep people sick so they could continue to make money. I can assure you from many years in the field that this is not the case and I doubt doctors as a group are any more or less ethical than
    Politicians, or business men for that matter.
    3) It does little good to provide educational opportunity if children do not have enough to eat or a safe place to sleep.
    4) I disagree about our relative “bars” with regard to the capacity for achievement. My spirit was certainly not broken by the fact that social security allowed us to eat. I definitely understand about individual achievement.
    5) I don’t understand why you call it a ” hand out” when money goes directly to an individual in need, and a subsidy when it goes to a business
    Especially since you your self made the point that your own family did this without subsidy.
    6) If you call it a handout to feed hungry children and provide them with clothing and shelter, then you are right. What I would actually favor would be a society in which more than lip service was paid to everyone having equal opportunity.
    6) and as for my personal preference, that would be for programs such as

  22. Frankly

    medwoman:

    1) I was using an analogy of codependence. Welfare and food stamps seem to become addictive to people and families that consume them. It is the welfare recipients that vote for Dems, not the druggies. I agree that most druggies are apolitical… or too stoned to care.

    2) I don’t “know”; I only have an opinion based on observation and experience. I do find it interesting that you equate lower socioeconomic circumstances to illness. Might that be an indication of the mindset difference that I was talking about? Maybe our difference in perspective here has to do with our different professions. I work in small business lending for economic development, and I assume that you work in the medical field.

    3) I agree. That is why I want the education of that child to best prepare him for never having to go hungry… and to not have to depend on others to provide him critical necessities of life when he becomes an adult. It amazes me that folks on the left are more apt to opine for more social benefits to care for the tragedy of poverty; yet they are more apt to defend our public school system which does such a good job ensuring so many kids will be stuck in a life of poverty.

    4) It sounds like your use of these benefits was temporary until you could take care of yourself or your problems resolved themselves. If so, I am happy that it turned out well. However, there is that question: what did people do before these government safety nets existed? For kids, my point really boils down to the problems with our public education system. My problem with handouts is reserved for the large population of otherwise capable adults… many of them made to believe they are incapable by the crappy public school system they attended. This combined with their easy access to benefits given away free by our government comprise the destructive dependency.

    5) Give a person a job, and they help themselves for the long term. Give them money and it makes someone else feel good, but is destructive in the long run because it creates a dependency.

    6) Take care of kids anyway we can as long as that care focuses on making them self-sufficient adults.

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