Dancing At California’s Funeral

DEC. 9, 2010

After watching the swearing in of the Assembly on Monday, and feeling the party-like atmosphere in the room, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was watching dancing at a funeral.

Apparently, some in the Assembly feel the same. Fortunately, many Republicans have fight left in them, and they are taking the fight to Governor-elect Jerry Brown – albeit politely.

This week I spoke with several legislators in the minority party to get a read on what’s in store for Republicans in the 2011-12 year, and how they plan to have any impact on change in the state.

Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Riverside, said that while he could not divulge the details of the Republicans’ meeting with Brown on Tuesday, they were adamant in letting the incoming governor know that Californians are breaking under the weight of overbearing regulations, hefty fees and fines by state agencies.

“I can say that our caucus members honed in on the problems of out-of-control bureaucracies and regulations,” he said. “The takeaway was that Republicans will not retreat on the downsizing of regulatory oversight in the state – anything less is not acceptable.”

Jeffries confirmed that Brown appears to be harnessing bipartisan cooperation, exhibited at a private breakfast with Republican lawmakers earlier in the week,  described in some news accounts as a “charm offensive.” Republicans are pleased to be communicating directly with Brown, but are naturally guarded and find themselves in hurry-up-and-wait mode.

Some Republican state legislators said that voters spoke to them through the ballot box, but most recognize that it was public employee and labor unions, clearly fearing change, that heavily influenced the election.

And Republicans are still holding out hope for some fiscal conservatism from the majority party… for the survival of the state.

Brown is already addressing the need to stop the short-term budget “fixes,” said Jeffries, as well as taking on Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s plan for bumping programs down to the local level. Except Brown says that if that happens, programs will come with revenue.

In Wednesday’s budget forum, Brown presented a dismal picture of the state’s finances in an obviously scripted presentation. But there was no stopping some of the questions coming from Republicans, who don’t seem to be buying the doom and gloom as an all-access pass to tax increases.

According to Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville, who authored the failed Proposition 23, he sees a silver lining in the big cloud hanging over California. “Because of Prop 23, Prop 26 passed,” said Logue.

Proposition 23 would have suspended AB 32, California’s global warming laws, until the state’s economy improved. But Logue said that the special interest groups determined to see Prop 23 fail, took their eyes, and money, off Prop 26, facilitating its passage. Prop 26 now requires a two-thirds vote to pass many fees, levies, charges and tax revenue allocations, that under the state’s previous rules could be enacted by a simple majority vote, according to Ballotpedia.

Logue agrees that the survival of the state is at hand, but the requirement to increase taxes and fees now with a supermajority will not be easy to accomplish, and he is heaving a sigh of relief.

Jeffries confirmed that Brown is already making noise about putting a tax initiative on the ballot, just as he promised during his campaign.

“They are trying to scare people into agreeing to tax increases,” Logue said of the state’s Democrats. “What needs to happen is they need to quit passing bonds like the water bond that they can’t pay for.”

Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, has some interesting ideas for getting Californians back to work that don’t involve legislation or bill creation. Gorell  created a business advisory group that plans to attract businesses to his district through contracting work with the three large military bases. He even has the support of labor unions, bridging the usual ideological gap.

“I am putting my business advocacy and military background together to create private sector jobs,” he said. “Manufacturing has actually increased in my district in bio-tech, solar and even rocket-parts manufacturing.”

New Republican legislators are hopeful that they can make a difference with their fresh ideas and new business approaches. The veteran legislators are guarded but determined that change will take a different approach using some atypical creativity.

As Grove, a business owner recently said, “Our state does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. We need to evaluate state programs with a strong business model.  We need to end the salaries of the unnecessary boards and commissions we have in Sacramento. We need to ask ourselves the simple question: are we getting results from our investment?”

There is no doubt that there is a reckoning coming for California, but the questions remain – at what level, how painful, and how much impact can Jerry Brown have on California’s fiscal crisis?

I’m with Grove – the return on investment is what Californians want to see. And if Brown pushes for more taxes to continue to pay for the state’s really bad spending habit, without making cuts to unnecessary programs and high-paying fluffy jobs, he could be the one realizing the reckoning.

-Katy Grimes

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  1. Charlie Peters
    Charlie Peters 9 December, 2010, 19:27

    Corn fuel ethanol stinks

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