Jerry's Real Plan: $25 billion in Cuts?

John Seiler:

Looking over Katy Grimes’ budget piece today on Jerry Brown’s testimony before the Legislature, “Is An All-Cuts Budget Ahead,” I was wondering: Does he want his tax increases to fail? Has he all along planned to have an all-cuts budget?

If Republicans don’t put his tax-increases on a special June election, then he can blame them. “Those mean old Republicans forced me to cut $25 billion instead of just $13 billion,” he could say to his union allies, who helped elect him.

If Republicans do allow a tax vote on a June ballot, and it fails, then he can say to his union allies, “I’m sorry, but the voters have spoken. There’s nothing more I can do but cut.”

Would his tax increase be rejected by voters? Almost certainly. If a vote is held, the unions and their allies around the country would raise tens of millions in favor of it.

But anti-tax groups, led by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, would rally their troops against a tax increase. Burned in the November 2010 election, when they won nothing statewide, California Republicans would rally against the tax increase. The Tea Parties in this state, who didn’t have much effect last year, would find a cause to rally around.

And the election would go national, bringing in tens of millions of dollars from both unions and anti-tax groups.

Jerry Brown knows more about California politics than anybody. Ex-Gov. Pete Wilson is close, having beaten Brown in a U.S. Senate race. But that was in 1982, almost 30 years ago. Brown just won an election for governor, and four years earlier was elected attorney general.

He knows, I think, that tax increases wouldn’t really solve the problem. When Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the $13 billion tax increase two years ago, that was advertised as solving the state’s budget problems — but sure didn’t, as here we are again with a $25 billion deficit.

Brown also is aware how taxes affect economic production. That’s why, in his 1992 presidential campaign, he backed a flat-tax proposal designed by economist Arthur Laffer, who had helped design President Reagan’s tax cuts.

So, Brown may be reasoning (in my speculation): Call for tax increases. They don’t happen. Then the $25 billion in spending cuts are inevitable. If the cuts occur, when the national economy finally recovers, California’s economy will take off and produce a surplus. Use the surplus to restore some of the cut spending — but also for tax cuts to keep business growth moving.

With the luster restored to the Golden State, Brown wins easy re-election in 2014. And — you read it here first — runs for president in 2016. True, Jerry would be 78 then. But Ron Paul, who’s readying a 2012 presidential bid, will be 76 next year. Ronald Reagan was inaugurated for his second term in 1985 just days shy of turning 74.

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