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THE NOONER for December 8, 2011
With Governor Jerry Brown announcement that he intends to take his tax plan directly to the voters, the big policy question for 2012 is whether Republicans will be engaged at all. Is he willing to discuss a bipartisan plan following last year's disappointing finish, or is the initiative the only plan to be pursued.
As George Skelton writes this morning, some Republicans see the opportunity to get any policy wins quickly diminishing.
"'Stop whining and get back to the negotiating table,' Sen. Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) scolded. The senator told me he could vote to place a tax measure on the ballot if it included genuine tax reform, including extending the sales tax to some services while reducing rates."
Most insiders believe that there were enough Republican votes to place the tax extensions on the ballot last year. However, it would have taken deep concessions on environmental and pension issues and, with polls showing the voters were likely to nix the taxes, labor and other interest groups encouraged the governor and legislative Democrats to pull the plug. The last thing labor wanted to do was accept GOP demands on major policy issues, spend $60 million on a failed tax campaign, and live with policy concessions and no revenue.
Fast forward to 2012. Labor is facing a very difficult November 2012 election. In addition to turning out voters for the Obama re-elect and playing in several legislative races, labor will be engaged in a very expensive campaign ($40-$60 million) to defeat "paycheck protection" and remain relevant in California politics. There just isn't enough money to go around next year.
Some Democratic legislators and labor folks would like to see a bipartisan budget deal that gets prominent business interests (and, gasp, Republican legislators) supporting the tax package. With a bipartisan coalition, the thinking goes, the cost of the tax campaign could drop from $60-80 million to perhaps less than $50 million and the costs would be spread among more interest groups.
The Chamber and other business groups are willing to engage on the tax issue and understand the need for revenues. However, they can't simply jump on board, and need something to deliver to their conservative members in exchange for business support of taxes. A big piece would be pension reform, but changes to CEQA and a spending cap might also be on the holiday wish list.
So, does the governor plan on engaging Republicans? That's the big question, and one that might be answered in the governor's January budget proposal and by how hard he pushes on pension reform. The "pros" of doing so are increasing the likelihood of passage and moving some of the campaign's financial burden off of labor. The big downside is the possibility of a nasty fight that leads nowhere, highlighting a dysfunctional Sacramento government that voters don't want to invest in.
Skelton closes on the hazard of negotiating:
"But Brown got stuck in the mud following that route earlier this year. He thinks his only option is to head down a different risky road."
SALT AS CURRENCY: Seeing a chance to raise money for the party, CDP executive director Shawnda Westly sent out a message with a link to watch party chairman John Burton video on The Daily Show. You have to wonder if all this poo-pooing of the initiative process helps the governor's plan to use that process to approve a tax increase.
TWEET DU JOUR: @BeatlesTweets: #RIPJohnLennon
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