Monday, October 20, 2014

Is it really a surprise?

Of late, there have been a series of news articles expressing surprise that Jerry Brown, who is assured of re-election as governor, isn't vigorously campaigning for legislative Democrats who might be in trouble.  The theme of the articles is that the legislative Democrats, if they do well, could regain their 2/3 supermajority allowing them to pass tax increases, put constitutional amendments on the ballot, etc.  The writers seem puzzled that Brown isn't pushing for that result.

The most recent of these articles appears in the Sacramento Bee:

There is a simple answer.  Why would Brown, who likes to be in charge of state policy, want to have a legislature that can do anything (including override his veto)?  He is assured of a comfortable Democratic majority, so state budgets can be passed without Republican support.  Not so long ago, you needed 2/3 to pass a budget and that gave Republicans leverage and led to (long) delays.  But thanks to the voters, the budget can now be passed by a simple majority.  But Brown can veto it (as he once did) if he doesn't like it, so ultimately the legislature has to deal with him.  Brown may have some ideas about taxes after his temporary Prop 30 taxes expire.  But he can always go the initiative route, as he did with Prop 30, and bypass the legislative process.  Brown has plenty of money in the till for an initiative effort if he wants to have one.  With the exception of various billionaires with pet causes, those folks with ideas like an oil severance tax for higher ed don't have the money.  Any tax idea, therefore, is likely to need to pass muster with Brown before it has a reasonable chance of being enacted.

So really, the only surprising question in the story of why Brown is not active in legislative campaigns is why news reporters are surprised by his behavior.

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