Two years ago the Legislature raised taxes with the barest approval. Just enough Republicans deserted their party's no-tax pledge and joined Democrats to form the minimal constitutional two-thirds majority required. Simultaneously, legislators put on the ballot a two-year extension of sales, income and vehicle tax increases. Voters rejected it 2-1.
Clearly, California voters didn't want what the Legislature wanted. Apparently, Republican legislators got the message. So far, they have resisted not only voting for more taxes, but also have refused to put the decision before voters again. Those are prudent decisions. We believe they reflect taxpayers' sentiment.
We thought Gov. Jerry Brown learned something, too. When campaigning, he promised he wouldn't favor more taxes without a vote of the public. A spokesman reiterated to us Tuesday that the governor "will not agree to any proposal to extend currently existing taxes that does not include a vote of the people."
However, he added, "to stave off devastating cuts to schools, public safety and the disabled, the governor would be willing to consider a temporary extension of taxes that is dependent on subsequent voter approval."
The concept of being "dependent on subsequent voter approval" seems problematic, and not quite as the governor's original promise. We wonder if it would open a Pandora's box.
Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles, still says he wants the Legislature to approve taxes on a two-thirds vote, but, according to the Los Angeles Times, he suggested, "for the first time that lawmakers could enact tax increases and then ask for voter ratification afterward."
What kind of mischief might this lead to? If the Legislature approves more taxes on a two-thirds vote, can approval still be contingent on a later ratification by voters? If voters say "No," wouldn't there still be a two-thirds approval of the Legislature? Isn't that all the Constitution requires? This seems murky, at best. Dangerous at worst.
For now, Democrats are concentrating on enticing two Republicans in each house to make a two-thirds majority for raising taxes.
If Republicans cave in, and tax increases are approved with two-thirds vote, it would test Brown's campaign pledge to oppose increases absent a statewide vote.
We call Republicans to hold to their no-tax positions, and for the governor to live up to the clear meaning of his original promise.