The current California budget conflict is unlike any other; not only has the governor vetoed an entire state budget for the first time in history, but it is unclear whether his own party knew that he was going to reject their complicated budget proposal. I personally find it hard to believe that the Democratic leadership did not know that the governor was going to veto their plan. After all, I predicted that the legislators would come up with some plan just to make sure they could meet their June 15th deadline in order to get their paychecks. I also know that the governor is dead set on having citizens vote on tax extensions, and he believes that he can get the four Republican votes he needs to put the taxes on the ballot; however, everything has become complicated by the new voting districts, which give the Democrats the hope that they can win a super-majority in the legislature, and therefore they may not need the Republicans at all in the future.
As I have previously written, all of the plans being discussed are bad, and if Brown decides to use the unions to fund a petition-gathering effort, the unions should insist that the current tax extensions be discarded, and a whole new set of progressive taxes must be presented. Not only would it be easier to pass a tax on the wealthiest Californians, but it would be more just and fair. Moreover, a tax on oil extraction to increase funding for higher education would also be a popular tax, and it is even worth the effort to put a majority vote for new revenue on the ballot.
The best possible strategy would be for Brown to pass a modified version of the budget he has just vetoed and then work with the unions to place progressive taxes on a special election ballot. Brown could also use the new projected tax revenue to reduce the state cuts to higher education and other needed public services. If the unions work together and present a united front to the governor, we can push for a progressive solution to help all Californians.
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