Trick or Treat with Dan Walters and Proposition 30
Dan Walters explains the aftermath when Jerry Brown’s big tax increase and California budget initiative fails at the polls next Tuesday.
As the political odds turn against Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax measure, political insiders are turning their attention, however reluctantly, to the fallout should, indeed, voters reject the sales and income tax hike on Tuesday.
The measure would deliver $6 billion a year in new revenues and should it fail, Brown and the Legislature have already passed $6 billion in so-called “trigger cuts” that would be imposed, overwhelmingly on K-12 schools.
So that would seem to be that. But it’s not.
As Brown campaigns – with increasing desperation – for the measure, he insists that were it to fail, he’d refuse to sign legislation changing the trigger cuts to schools. But he has to say that, because the threat to schools is the core of his pitch to voters.
Whether he really would stand pat on the triggers is, therefore, problematic. Brown has never let a seemingly solid public position preclude changing his mind when political winds shift.
What we do know is that his allies in the educational establishment, especially unions such as the California Teachers Association, have no intention of meekly accepting the trigger cuts, even if most school districts have already built that worst-case scenario into their current budgets.
They would not only press Brown and the Legislature to reduce or eliminate the trigger cuts, but most likely would challenge their constitutionality in the courts, because the stakes are not just the 2012-13 fiscal and school years, but the shape of school finance for years to come.
Were the courts to void the triggers, they would take Brown and the Legislature off the political hook of having imposed them – much as the U.S. Supreme Court solved their political dilemma about overcrowding of prisons. “The judge made me do it” sounds much better to voters than “I changed my mind.”
The fact is Jerry Brown and his Democratic cronies in the Legislature will wear NO clothes after the tax increase fails.
They will have to make unpopular cuts – but as Walters explains they will have to make some anyway since Prop. 30 doesn’t solve the structural budget deficit.
Jerry Brown has wasted an entire year with Proposition 30 – no leadership there. Let the voters screw themselves and solve his budget dilemma.
However, Californians may have just screwed up his plan.