After Tuesday night’s election results came in, I started searching for two things: a stiff drink and a good out-of-state real-estate agent.
The national election sends troubling signs about the direction the country is headed, but nothing much will change from the past four years, so we know what to expect even if it isn’t particularly good. But California voters have sent their state into some new and potentially dark territory, the results of which will soon be felt.
I quoted journalist H.L. Mencken before the election, but now is a good time to repeat his quip about democracy being the theory that the people know what they want and deserve to get it … “good and hard.” Californians are definitely going to feel the pain, not just in the passage of Proposition 30 and its direct hike in taxes.
The big news: It looks like voters have handed two-thirds majorities to Democrats in the state Senate and Assembly. The Senate is a sure thing and final counting will likely yield supermajority control of the Assembly, thanks in part to Fullerton voters’ apparent ousting of Chris Norby.
Currently, the only thing standing between California residents and endless sea of increases in sales taxes, income taxes, gasoline taxes, and business taxes has been the constitutional requirement that tax increases gain a two-thirds vote.
Republicans in California don’t stand for much, but they have mostly stood together in their opposition to tax increases. Likewise, Democrats—including the handful of “moderates”—have been unified in their promotion of higher taxes as the answer to California’s problems. Now the Democrats will have their way early and often.
“It’s time to start anew and to live within our means but at the same time invest in the cornerstone of our future and of our economy, and that’s education,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) told CBS News. “I certainly don’t mean to suggest to my colleagues that the first thing we do is go out and raise more taxes,” Steinberg added.
Maybe not the first thing, but certainly the second and third things if Steinberg governs the way has typically governed. Gov. Jerry Brown and other Democrats assured the public that there will be no tax frenzy. As a headline put it, they “vow restraint,” but don’t believe them. Look at the bills that passed the Legislature even when tax increases were not assured. Unions pulled out the stops to pass taxes and get the Democrats the unlimited power they desire. They have their demands and will soon be receiving even higher pay and benefit levels.
The only good news is that the Democrats will now completely own the state’s budget and fiscal situation. They will no longer be able to blame Republicans for holding up solutions to the state’s budgetary problems.
In recent years, good-government reformers have complained about gridlock in the state Capitol. Voters approved a proposition in 2010 to eliminate the supermajority vote requirement for passing budgets. Since then Republicans have been irrelevant to the budgeting process given that their votes aren’t needed.
Whatever their flaws and inconsistencies, Republicans at least provided some counterbalance to Democratic priorities. Now they will be completely irrelevant to everything, especially the most important power, taxing authority.
At his victory party, Gov. Jerry Brown was described as “jubilant” by the Sacramento Bee, which reported the following: “Brown declared victory after his tax initiative seized a narrow lead Tuesday night, calling Proposition 30 a ‘unifying force’ that countered the ‘Kool-Aid of the market ideologues.’”
That provides meaningful insight into his thinking—it’s a world in which raising taxes and building government is a great and unifying thing, and where allowing individuals to pursue their dreams and grow businesses is ideological Kool-Aid. The governor, by the way, is more moderate than most of his fellow party members.
Voters also approved Prop. 39. “Democrats received a second tax boost Tuesday when Proposition 39 passed, raising $1 billion annually for clean energy programs and the state budget by increasing taxes on multistate companies based elsewhere,” reported the Bee.
Consider that a harbinger of things to come. Many of the state’s businesses backed 39, figuring that it’s better to stick it to out-of-state companies than have the state government come after them. But as in all advanced welfare states, it’s only a matter of time before the taxers and regulators start coming for them.
While I don’t agree with a friend of mine who argued that state GOP officials ought to be placed head first in a vat of acid in response to their continued incompetence, I do agree that it’s time for rethinking party strategies.
Republicans need to better articulate an alternative vision that is more consistent and libertarian, and that can reach beyond conservative bastions. Then again, it may be too late. Carl DeMaio, a true GOP reformer who knows how to package free-market issues for a broad audience, was beaten by an old-school union hack in the race to become San Diego’s mayor.
The failure of Proposition 32, which would have limited union ability to extract dues from members to pay for the kind of bare-knuckled politics on display Tuesday, was beaten badly. That means that unions will continue to control the field.
After former Republican Assemblyman Chuck DeVore moved from Irvine to Austin, I chewed him out for abandoning California in its time of need. Turn-about is fair play, so he called me following the election to tease me about the new reality in California. He loves California but recommends Texas.
A lot more tax-paying Californians are going to start exploring housing options in Dallas and Houston, now that California voters have decided to give the Democrats the PIN number to their bank accounts.
I’m still not suggesting moving, but it’s wise to keep that agent on speed dial as you watch the coming legislative session in Sacramento.