By: Joel Fox
A Path to Put Taxes on Ballot if Gov Takes Calculated Risk: Listen to Reps
The Republicans have lighted a path for the governor to put the tax extensions on the ballot if the governor is willing to take a calculated risk - put tax cuts on the ballot as well.
The governor insists the people should vote on his tax extension plan. Many Republicans say they will only put those tax extensions on the ballot if equivalent tax cuts are also placed on the ballot.
It's a risk to the governor and Democrats agenda, but how big a risk? There really hasn't been much call for a tax cut recently and there doesn't seem to be a demand for new tax cuts from the voters.
The tax extensions are a different matter. Defeating the tax extensions might be considered the same as approving a tax cut because it would affirm the current temporary tax levels expire. Governor Brown said he is willing to take on that fight.
If both tax cut and tax extension measures are on the ballot, my guess is the focus of any campaign would be the tax extensions. There could be a Yes on Tax Extensions; No on Tax Cuts campaign and vice-versa, but I believe the emphasis will be on the extensions. Not much money would be put behind a tax cut effort; look for gobs of money to be spent in the fight over tax extensions.
If the governor believes the voters will follow his lead and support the tax extensions then, logically, he has to believe they would also turn down any tax cuts. If so, he should not fear the tax cut measure on the ballot.
This is the time to put other reforms on the ballot as well. I have argued previously for taking a long view and putting spending limits and pension reforms on the ballot to deal with the budget's structural problems.
The governor argues, as he did at a legislative committee yesterday, that this special election is about giving the people the right to vote. That vote should not be limited to whether the tax extensions are passed or not. Let the voters set a direction for the budget by voting on related matters.
Still, the budget debate has come down to the tax extensions and whether the voters will have an opportunity to vote on them. The new Taxpayers Caucus has shown the way to bring that issue to the voters and the governor should take them up on it.
Joel Fox, Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee