Thursday, February 19, 2009

Done Deal

From D-day:

So Abel's tears found a floor, and the deal is now done. It's a terrible, terrible deal. Let's first focus on what Maldonado got, which is less than meets the eye.

• He got his open primary legislation on the ballot, but not until June 2010. Arnold was interested in it, and so it was likely to get on that ballot anyway. This won't help Maldo in 2010, which was probably a condition of the deal. Considering that it affects Congressional races as well as legislative ones, I expect Nancy Pelosi to go all in trying to defeat and I don't expect it to pass. Open primaries have lost on the ballot in the past.

• The constitutional amendment banning legislative pay increases during deficit years passed; the amendment cutting all legislative pay during a late budget failed.

• The 12-cent gas tax increase was cut, replaced with a slight increase to the state income tax, federal stimulus money (which was always going to fill in because it was more than budgeted for) and $600 million in unspecified line-item vetoes from the Governor, which are going to be ugly. Let's just say that the huge corporate tax cut is not the first place Arnold's going to look.

Now, that's what Maldonado got. Among the other goodies in this budget, besides the corporate tax cuts and the privatization of state highway projects and the are:

A $10,000 tax credit for homebuyers, but only if they buy new construction. So a "developer bailout" when there is all kinds of existing inventory sitting on the market and lowering property values inside communities. And now there's an incentive for them to stay there. Great.

Large commercial vehicles are exempt from the increase in vehicle license fees, because... gee, I have no idea. This is perverse, the opposite of what we should be taxing, which are inefficient vehicles.

• Rental car companies can pass VLF increases on to customers, which they probably would have done anyway, but this makes it even easier.

• One provision allows for the delay of retrofitting of heavy diesel equipment, which will maintain poor air pollution in at-risk communities, and let's face it, kill people. Don't believe me, take it from the Chairman of the Air Resources Board, Mary Nichols: "There are people who will die because of this delay."

Dan Weintraub is right - this is a budget the GOP can be proud of, because it's a profoundly conservative budget. Because they hold a conservative veto over it. And they get the best of both worlds - they don't have to vote for the budget en masse so they don't have to own it. In short, the hijacking worked. And that's a function of process, not personality.

As Jean Ross says, "If this year’s budget negotiations don’t increase public support for reducing the vote requirement for approval of a budget and tax increases, it is not clear what will."

...there are two initiatives that have entered circulation that would repeal 2/3 for budget and taxes, and replace it with an arbitrary 55%. It should be majority rule. But it's about to gather signatures. Budgets and bad policies can eventually be changed if the process is changed.

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