Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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Something Special in 2011?

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Over at his Capitol Notes blog, KQED’s ever-prescient John Myers raises the question of Jerry Brown calling for a special election early next summer to deal with California’s ongoing budget mess, assuming he defeats Meg Whitman.

The scenario would go something like this:

1) Jerry wins on Nov. 2 and gets to work right away on the budget;

2) Come next spring, after he’s crunched the numbers, the new guv puts his cards on the table: this is gonna be tough, it’s gonna be painful, and it’s gonna include higher taxes . . . but you, the voters, get to decide if indeed you want said higher taxes.

3) Jerry calls for a special election in early- to mid-March, and hopes to get a vote done by June 15, which is the constitutional deadline for the Legislature ratifying a new budget (a deadline lawmakers have missed 19 of the last 20 times).

4) Voters approve the plan, budget chaos is avoided, church bells toll, exuberant citizens take to the street to celebrate their exalted governor, newborn sons are named Edmund, Linda Ronstadt albums fly off the shelf.

Ok, I apologize for the sarcasm. But it is easy to punch holes in Brown’s plans.

For one, Californians aren’t wild about special elections. Just ask Governor Schwarzenegger , who got sand kicked in his face in the special elections of 2005 and 2009.

Second, and in case you haven’t noticed, that aren’t too many candidates for higher office in this particular election either calling for new taxes (which explains why don’t you don’t see much of Phil Angelides, the last Democrat to run for the job, as a Brown surrogate) . . . or giving voters the right do so.

Third, given that the initiative process is the devil’s playground of California politics, what’s stopping a special interest from throwing a monkey-wrench into Jerry’s grand scheme?

Specifically, I’m thinking a ballot measure reducing the Legislature to part-time status. It’s tailor-made for a small-turnout vote. It’ll draw conservatives to the polls, thus likely torpedoing higher taxes. And the threat of such an initiative might compel squeamish lawmakers to bail on a special election, lest their lose their comfy set-up.

That said, there is something clever in Brown’s approach. By talking about taking on the budget right after Election Day, as opposed to waiting until January and his inaugural, Brown gives the impression of an “action” governor — a word the current occupant of the Horseshoe likes to toss around.

And it does beg the question of how his opponent, if elected, would make use of her November and December, aside from her campaign pledge to interview those 300 top appointees.

BTW, here’s a fun little car game to play with a fellow political junkie the next time you’re on a long drive (or, more likely in this state, stuck in traffic): name the year and the topic of the recent California election.

2002 — Gray Davis wins re-election;

2003 — Arnold Schwarzenegger replaces Gray in the October recall;

2004 — George W. Bush and Barbara Boxer (two names usually not in the same thought or the same sentence) are re-elected;

2005 — Arnold gets skunked in the November special election (teacher tenure, union-dues reform, spending limits, redistricting all get 86’ed);

2006 — Arnold and Dianne Feinstein are re-elected;

2008 — Barack Obama is elected;

2009 — Arnold again skunked, this time in a May special election (hasta la vista six ballot measures advertised to close a $42 billion budget hole);

2010 — Brown/Whitman/Boxer/Carly Fiorina.

2011 — ???

It may not be the face of voter fatigue. But it sure looks and feels that way . . .


Written by Bill Whalen

September 9, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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