| During this whole multi-year budget season, the Republicans have consistently been fighting to put the reduction of taxes as the top issue on the table. And Steve Poizner's "10-10-10" Plan calls for a 10 percent cut in taxes as well as a 10 percent cut in spending. Of course, we've cut far more than 10 percent in each of the last few budget years, so his plan doesn't carry much meaning, but the sentiment is still there.
But, like so many issues facing California, the Republicans are out of touch with the people they are supposed to be representing. In a poll by the Datamar firm (PDF), taxes as an issue didn't even rate. It just got lumped in with "all other issues." Meanwhile, "budget cuts" rated as the second leading issue among all groups except Republican respondents. (They're still hung up on the immigration issue, despite the fact that we are still in the middle of a slow, if not nil, immigration flow on our southern border.)
Of course, the economy is still front and center, as "jobs" and "economy" could conceivably be pushed together in terms of responses. But, as voters are looking around the state, they see the effect budget cuts are having. Transit and roads programs are being slashed, you get charged for 911 calls, and the social safety net is falling apart. Workers across the state are falling into semi-permanent states of unemployment that just become harder and harder to break out of.
So, why then are we still arguing? Why not fix the budget? Well, the Republicans have played their hand well. It's always easier to be a party of no, and as well as they've played that game in DC, they do it better in Sacramento. Because despite the minority's rejection of even the budgets proposed by their own governor, they are attributed a relatively small share of the blame.
SInce 1978, the Republicans have almost always been in the minority in the Legislature, but have wielded that minority as a club to make some serious and far reaching cuts to the system. In addition to commanding the governor's position most of that time, they have been able to bully Democrats into adopting budgets that would never be approved under any majority vote system. It has skewed the actual state of the government and
Yet by allowing just the stray vote or two to cross the lines, they keep their names out of the filth of the actual budget and can blame the Democrats for the perverse effects of a system gone astray. Thus, you get this graph to the left, where the Dems, despite there willingness to give and give to the Governor and the Legislative Republicans being seen as the source of problems. Despite all facts to the contrary, no matter how many ways you can show historically what the supermajority has done to the state, it doesn't matter. You end up with this garbage.
Of course, given our string of pr debacles, nobody should be surprised to see that nearly 70% of Republicans blame the Democrats, while only about 30% of Democrats blame the Republicans in the Legislature. We have simply failed to tell our story. And at this point, it's not even clear if Californians are really wiling to do what is necessary to create a working and sustainable government.
That being said, it is imperative that we not only continue to fight for the majority of Californians who are more concerned with cuts than taxes, but we frame it as such. Every day, Democrats need to take the fight away from a frame as a fight with the Republicans and transform it into a populist crusade for the rights and values of the majority of Californians.