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A Taxing Proposition

Will California’s voters soak themselves?

Oct 29, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 07 • By KATE HAVARD
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That’s a sentiment the governor might want to ponder. Brown is fond of showing how serious he is about fiscal responsibility. He flies Southwest Airlines and eats leftover tuna sandwiches for lunch. But he’s less frugal where it counts.

In May, while promoting Proposition 30, Brown’s office released a list of 70 state parks it planned to close because the state could no longer afford them. In July, the Sacramento Bee discovered that the Department of Parks and Recreation was hiding $54 million in operating funds.

Perhaps more egregious: Jerry Brown asked the legislature in July for $6 billion to launch his high-speed rail boondoggle, which will cost at least $68 billion to complete—already more costly than the $40 billion plan voters agreed to in 2008.

“What kind of governor would threaten cutting 14 days from the school year if his tax increases don’t pass, and then do this?” asks Katy Grimes, a reporter for A governor who favors big labor, that’s who. The light rail is a “union labor jobs bill,” Grimes says, a “dream” for unions, but a “nightmare” for taxpayers.

If Proposition 30 passes, Brown will have a $6 billion a year excuse to leave the state’s unsustainable public-sector pension plans untouched. “Brown put the unions in power 30 years ago as governor, and this is the result,” Grimes says. “This is why passing Proposition 32 is so important. It’s an actual reform.”

Prop 32, the Paycheck Protection Act, would ban automatic deduction of union dues for political purposes. It would also bar corporations
and unions from donating to local and state candidates. The impact on California politics would be enormous.

Endorsing the proposition, the Orange County Register wrote:

Anyone familiar with California politics knows that the most powerful forces, by far, in the state Capitol are the public-employee unions. Their clout was demonstrated this year when the California Teachers Association, the most powerful of them all, killed Senate Bill 1530, which would have made it easier to fire bad teachers for actions “that involve certain sex offenses, controlled-substance offenses or child abuse offenses.” .  .  . The bill advanced after several cases of teacher abuse against children came to light. .  .  . The bill passed overwhelmingly in the state Senate. .  .  . Then the CTA killed it in the Assembly Education Committee.

Labor unions have spent $45 million on a “No on 32” campaign. According to Field Poll, Proposition 32 is struggling. Voters oppose it 44-38 percent.

It’s too close, and too early, to call Prop 30 or Prop 32. Californians might choose to start making needed cuts and curb the power of labor unions. If they don’t, the State Budget Crisis Task Force will need a more unnerving name.

As Laer Pearce, author of Crazifornia, warns, “We have hit bottom already, but not the bottom of the bottom.”

Kate Havard is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.

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