A Vote for Revenue
Politicians are usually most revealing when speaking off-the-cuff, and so it was with Karen Bass:
Q: How do you think conservative talk radio has affected the Legislature’s work?
A: The Republicans were essentially threatened and terrorized against voting for revenue. Now [some] are facing recalls. They operate under a terrorist threat: “You vote for revenue and your career is over.” I don’t know why we allow that kind of terrorism to exist. I guess it’s about free speech, but it’s extremely unfair.
The California Assembly Speaker was talking about California’s budget crisis. There is a simple problem here. Decades of runaway spending by both the democratically-controlled legislature and voters during the boom years has the state government scrambling to meet its commitments now.
The solution, however, is more complex. Democrats have been the majority party in the legislature for decades, and this budget mess falls squarely on their backs. The solution, deep cuts to wasteful and often useless state bureaucracy, is simply not an option to them. Cutting the bureaucracy would be a loss of political capital for the Democrats, making the entire enterprise of state government less profitable. Instead, we have people like Karen Bass pulling stupid politician tricks:
The Golden State is one of only three in the nation which requires a two-thirds majority vote to raise taxes. This is forcing Democrats in Sacramento to try to recruit a handful of Republicans to pass their current plan to close the state’s gap with a combination of cuts and taxes. So far, no GOP legislator has broken ranks.
Then came Plan B. This week, the Democratic leadership mustered enough support to pass a series of budget bills with a simple majority, hoping to send them onto Governor Schwarzenegger.
Some of these bills do raise revenues, but legislators believe they can avoid the necessary two-thirds majority by reclassifying some taxes as “user fees”, while raising taxes elsewhere and claiming the end result is “tax neutral”.
A call to the Legislative Counsel’s office pointed to the part of the State Constitution which explains the need for a two-thirds majority: “any changes in state taxes enacted for the purpose of increasing revenues collected pursuant thereto whether by increased rates or changes in methods of computation must be imposed by an Act passed by not less than two-thirds of all members elected to each of the two houses of the Legislature, except that no new ad valorem taxes on real property, or sales or transaction taxes on the sales of real property may be imposed.”
But when pushed for an explanation as to where the law allows a simple majority, by creating “revenue neutral” taxes and exchanging a tax for a user fee, we were directed to the Assembly Speaker Karen Bass’s office.
Her office did not return calls or emails (though the emails were read). Other calls asking for guidance were met with silence, and another reference to the section of the state constitution cited above.
So, this is what Karen Bass means when she says Republicans have been terrorized into voting against revenue? Let’s revisit her quote and fill in what’s actually happening:
The Republicans were essentially threatened and terrorized against voting for a law that deliberately violates taxpayer protections in the Constitution. Now [some] are facing recalls. They operate under a terrorist threat: “You vote for a law that deliberately violates taxpayer protections in the Constitution and your career is over.” I don’t know why we allow that kind of terrorism to exist. I guess it’s about free speech, but it’s extremely unfair.
Karen Bass is saying that pressuring politicians to simply follow the law is terrorism. As Instapundit would say, the state is in the best of hands!