As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Two-Thirds Watch: Bradley Bold, Cavala Splits The Baby, Brown A Coward

I don't actually support Eric Bradley for a second term as CDP Controller. I think Hillary Crosby would be a fresh face and give the large Progressive Caucus coalition a grassroots voice in the leadership. But I have to applaud Bradley, an occasional commenter here, supporting a majority vote to restore democracy to the state.

I look forward to working with all of you in building a stronger California Democratic Party—one that is ready for the challenges ahead, filled with energy and enthusiasm to elect a Democrat as Governor in 2010, to pass an initiative that reduces the threshold for the state budget to a simple majority, to defeat the destructive Louisiana Style Open Primary initiative proposed by Arnold Schwarzenegger and to maintain our majorities in the State Legislature.

This is a Party Controller candidate. If he can advocate for majority vote, anybody can. That's why it's truly disappointing to see Jerry Brown mute on this issue, letting everyone else in the state lead while the issue is in the forefront while he calibrates his position. It's a cowardly stance, and nobody running for Governor should be silent on the only issue that will allow them to actually govern. Some have said that it is better to say nothing than to be counter-productive in calling for something arbitrary like a 55% standard. There's a slogan for you: "Brown '10 - Not Being Counter-Productive." Inspiring!

One thing that Bradley and many other Democrats leave aside is an explanation that we have not one 2/3 requirement, but two. There is the 2/3 vote needed to pass a budget, and the 2/3 vote needed to raise taxes. Bill Cavala, who ably represents warmed-over consultocracy CW in Sacramento, argues that Democrats should only attempt to change the budget requirement due to political expediency:

Here’s the good news: voters do agree that a budget should be passed by majority vote. They would, albeit somewhat narrowly, support such a ballot measure.

Now here’s the bad news: they will not support changing the requirement that demands a two-thirds vote to raise taxes. Combine the two measures, and both would be defeated.

Convinced by media coverage of government that yearly exposes a few million dollars in obvious waste or egregious prerequisites for politicians, voters believe in most circumstances new taxes are not needed. Cut the ‘waste’ instead. But even voters got the word that lopping the pay raises of the 20% of the Legislature’s staff that received them wouldn’t cover a $42,000,000,000 revenue shortfall [...]

While it would be nice to exclude Republicans from tax decisions, we are unlikely to be able to do so anytime soon. By combining the 2/3 tax hike requirement with the 2/3 budget requirement we risk losing both – as labor found out when they put this package on the ballot a few years ago, spent millions, and lost big.

By taking the half a loaf we can get – the reduction of votes needed to pass a budget to a majority – we still gain a great deal. Republican lawmakers are certainly now aware that Democrats will pay a high price to keep the State solvent. The sidebar deals needed to raise taxes get some progressive praise now – but what sidebars will be demanded to pass a spending plan (without new taxes) in the future? And what makes anyone think the Democrats in the Legislature wouldn’t pony up?

This is the stupidest argument I've ever heard. Changing the budget but not taxes is TOM MCCLINTOCK'S view of things. It makes Democrats own a budget that can only be modified with expenditure cuts. In the event of a deficit, Democrats would have to either cave and cut services or hold out with the exact same dynamic that we saw this year. And it will not allow the legislature to tackle the structural revenue gap that comes from a tax system too closely tied to boom-and-bust budget cycles. This is perverse consultant-class thinking that is dangerously outdated, constantly compromising, and believes in political reality as static rather than lifting a finger to change that reality. Thinking that March 2004 and June 2010 are the same is just ridiculous, and thinking that no argument can be made to the public, after the longest and most self-evidently absurd budget process in decades, that the system is fundamentally broken and has to be changed to allow the majority to do their job, is in many ways why we're in this position to begin with.

So not only do we have to watch Democratic leaders to see whether or not they support repealing 2/3 with a majority vote rather than some arbitrary number, we have to watch them to see if they want to split the baby or not, either repealing both 2/3 requirements, or just dealing with the budget without taxes, which would actually put Democrats in a demonstrably worse situation.

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