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Denying Votes on Reforms Causes Budget Impasse
By: Joel Fox

In trying to determine if a deal to put a spending limit and pension reforms on the ballot in exchange for placing tax extensions on the ballot were possible, I spoke with a few people knowledgeable in California politics on my flight to Sacramento yesterday. The answer I received: the public unions would not let it happen.


Hours later, five Senate Republicans (Tom Berryhill, Sam Blakeslee, Anthony Cannella, Bill Emmerson and Tom Harman) issued a letter sent to Governor Jerry Brown saying that budget negotiations were at an impasse. The senators were seeking the type of reforms that are needed to move the state past perennial budget deficits: spending limits, pension reform and business reforms.


The latter is important because as Capitol veteran and author of California's Tax Machine, Dave Doerr, reminded me later in the day, more money is brought into the treasury from economic growth than has ever come by way of a tax increase.


While Governor Brown put off his deadline for qualifying a measure for the ballot to see if he can get the votes he needs, it appears those interests that support increased spending do not want the people to vote on specific reforms. The senators addressed this in their letter to the governor when they stated: "We have therefore concluded that you are unable to compel other stakeholders to accept real reform."


That raises the question: Why are only Republicans accused of denying the people a vote to settle this budget crisis?


If the deadline for calling a special election passes and the governor follows through with his all cuts budget, the stage is set for an initiative war between those who would promote new taxes and those who would propose spending restrictions.


The opportunity was there for important fiscal structural changes. But despite the harping of many newspaper editorialists blaming Republicans for not allowing the voters' approval on tax extensions, it appears the Democrats and their allies missed the opportunity by objecting to real reforms being placed on the ballot.


Joel Fox, Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee