have the opportunity of a lifetime to mend California's budget problems and start reinvesting in education and basic public services. So how are they handling this fleeting opportunity? They are making a mess of it. -- Disarray among the California Republican Party has become fodder for the national media. The party is losing registered voters. It has been having trouble raising money. As GOP political consultant Steve Schmidt told the New York Times last month, "The Republican Party in the state institutionally has become a small ideological club that is basically in the business of hunting out heretics."
California Democrats should be gloating. They control the Legislature, the Governor's Office and every state constitutional office. They are coming up on a historic election with high turnout that should favor their causes.
They have the opportunity of a lifetime to mend California's budget problems and start reinvesting in education and basic public services.
So how are they handling this fleeting opportunity? They are making a mess of it.
In the hunt for new tax revenue, Gov. Jerry Brown and wealthy lawyer Molly Munger are battling it out with dueling initiatives on the November ballot.
Brown's initiative, Proposition 30, would raise sales taxes slightly on everyone and income taxes sharply on high-income Californians. If it were to fail, Brown says he'd be forced to cut $5.5 billion from public schools and another half-billion dollars from public colleges.
The initiative by Munger and the PTA, Proposition 38, would raise income taxes on a broad cross-section of Californians for 13 years with the wealthy paying the most and direct most of that money to public schools.
Before Prop. 38 qualified for the ballot, Brown and his aides pressured Munger and the PTA to drop their measure, and ever since, relations have grown testy between the two camps. This sibling spat has gotten so ugly that last week the parents had to intervene. Last week, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer sent a letter to Prop. 38 supporters, urging a positive campaign and complaining that Munger had referred to Brown's initiative as a "shell game" and "a tiny Band-Aid" that would be "terrible for kids."
Proposition 38 supporters fired back that Brown should stop opposing their measure. Take that!
If the Munger-Brown spat is the main stage of this family drama, then the sideshow is Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and venture capitalist Tom Steyer. Both are going after the same pot of money roughly $1 billion a year from changing how the state taxes out-of-state corporations. Pérez, through pending legislation, would use the money for college scholarships. Steyer, through Proposition 39, would use it to finance energy efficiency and "clean energy jobs."
If the state Republican Party is afflicted by rigid ideological witch hunts, then Democrats are afflicted with "cause-itis."
Ever ready to go to the ballot to finance stem cell research, early childhood programs, clean energy or other causes, they are now ready to commit political fratricide rather than work together for the good of the state or their party.
With so much at stake on the November ballot, you'd think that Democrats would be on their best behavior in the Legislature.
They quietly give pay raises to aides, pass bills that increase perks for their labor union benefactors and shut down broadcasts of legislative hearings that don't fit with their agenda.
And pension reform? Remember all the pledges to enact pension reform this session? It's looking increasingly likely that won't happen adding to the likelihood that voters will reject the governor's tax initiative and possibly others supported by Democrats.
Should the Democratic Party be gloating about the misfortunes of the state GOP?
Hardly. Both parties are responsible for the biggest trend in California politics.
It is known as "decline to state."