The Politics of Taxes in California
One of the big problems in California is that raising taxes requires a two-thirds majority in the legislature. Republican legislators are rare in California, but not that rare, and so their unified opposition to tax increases means there are never any tax increases. That's part of how California got into this budget mess. Kevin Drum, however, makes an interesting point on the unintended consequences that that supermajority requirement has had on the politics of the state:
I wonder if Republicans ever stop to think about how badly these rules have hurt them too? Don't get me wrong: for various reasons, California would probably be a blue state these days regardless of whether we had a two-thirds rule or not. But the fact is that Californians, like most people, are generally unfriendly to tax increases. And yet they keep voting for Democrats anyway. Why?
Well, why not? Everyone knows the two-thirds rule will keep them from raising taxes, so if you like them for other reasons there's no reason not to vote for them.
But what if they could boost tax rates? Then, basically, their bluff would be called. They'd have to either raise taxes, thus pissing off a lot of people and giving Republicans a great campaign issue, or they'd have to leave taxes alone and take responsibility for cutting services. There would be no Republicans to blame it on. And guess what? That might make Democrats quite a bit less popular.
Now, it's unlikely that anything could turn the California legislature over to the GOP in the near future, but in the past 25 years California has had only one Democratic governor — and we recalled him after five years in office. We're not all that unfriendly to Republicans. If Democrats had the power to raise taxes — and actually did it — we might become even less unfriendly toward the GOP.
In other words, even though the two-thirds rule is the only thing that currently gives Republicans any influence at all in Sacramento, repealing it might be their only long-term hope of ever taking back the California legislature. Ironic, isn't it?
This is, I think, what happens when a minority decides it will never again be a majority. The Republican legislators only consider themselves accountable to the conservative districts that elect them, not to some hypothetical median voter they'd like to impress. Though I think that's a little less true this year, as they think there's an outside chance that voters will blame Democrats for the state's total collapse and elect some Republicans in their stead. They're burning the village to get elected in it. Neat strategy, huh?
Posted by: fallsmeadjc | July 23, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: JimPortlandOR | July 23, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: janinsanfran | July 23, 2009 8:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: TWAndrews | July 24, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: dasimon | July 24, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.