Jerry Brown, who as a candidate for governor in 2010 repeatedly pledged he wouldn’t raise taxes without a popular vote, has called for a special session of the Legislature for the purpose of raising taxes. This despite the fact that general fund revenues have outstripped estimates by almost $6 billion. So now we have the very real possibility of higher gas taxes, higher registration and vehicle license fees with proceeds promised for roads – all without a vote of the people.
That a politician would change his views on adding to the public’s tax burden is hardly a surprise. Those of a certain age will clearly remember presidential candidate George H.W. Bush proclaiming, “Read my lips, no new taxes,” before his later, as president, breaking his pledge.
In his effort to increase the tax burden on motorists, Brown is receiving support from the usual suspects including Democrats in the Legislature who have become the party of the public employee unions favoring more revenue for higher pay, and radical environmentalists for whom the price of fossil fuels can never be high enough. Even some in the business community are signaling that they, too, could support higher levies on California drivers if the result is improved roads. (By now you would think that these otherwise astute political players would realize that Faustian bargains with the tax-hikers always end badly).
The impediment to the grand scheme of those who want ever higher taxes is, of course, Proposition 13 which requires a two-thirds vote of each house of the Legislature. Deprived of their supermajorities in the last election cycle, Democrats would need help from Republicans. So the big question is will the Democrats be able to pick off a handful of Republican votes.
We sure hope not. Not only would this be bad policy but the California Republican Party has, in recent years, made progress in establishing a reputation as the only party to represent average working folks against multi-billion dollar tax increases. And voting for tax hikes as a Republican is a surefire way to end a political career.
Moreover, to their credit, Republicans have proposed credible transportation plans of their own to provide needed funding for road construction and maintenance, but without raising taxes.
Nonetheless, we’re hearing rumors that a couple of Republicans might acquiesce to a tax increase. They should know better as California already ranks second in the nation in gas tax rates, even without counting the hidden carbon tax. The new tax would make the state an outright number one and would add to the already highest gasoline prices.
Expect Republican legislators to be wined and dined and invited to dance by those lobbing for higher taxes. These favor seekers will be wearing their most benign looking sheep costumes but legislative Republicans should be aware that these are actually wolves who, once they have gotten the votes they want, will turn on them without provocation if it suits their interests.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.