| Yacht Party Assembly leader Mike Villines visited the Sacramento Bee editorial board yesterday, and like any good mob boss, he offered an ultimatum.
Solving the budget stalemate is simple enough, Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines said in a visit to The Bee's Capitol Bureau Tuesday. Democrats have to capitulate to GOP demands for the 8-hour work day, meal breaks, looser environmental regulations, permanent budget cuts and a stiff spending cap, among other things.
Then, and only then, will Republicans come to the table to discuss -- but not necessarily agree to -- new taxes.
"We think you have to do these reforms first, cuts first and make sure that you're doing an economic package that puts people back to work," Villines said. "Then you have a discussion about revenue - and only then."
Many of these things, you'll notice, have nothing to do with the budget. In fact, CapAlert published the ransom note that Villines brought with him, and while he puts his demands in somewhat vague terms (and the Bee should really spell it out if they want to inform the public), it's pretty clear what he and the GOP want. They want to eliminate overtime regulations and meal breaks for state employees. They want to re-legislate already-passed environmental regulations on retrofitting buildings, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and air quality standards. And they want a bushel of tax cuts for businesses. I'll put the ransom note on the flip.
Aside from being ridiculous, this is extremely close to being illegal. Yes, illegal. I know horse-trading is customary in politics, but it violates California law. This is Section 86 of the California Penal Code:
86. Every Member of either house of the Legislature, or any member of the legislative body of a city, county, city and county, school district, or other special district, who asks, receives, or agrees to receive, any bribe, upon any understanding that his or her official vote, opinion, judgment, or action shall be influenced thereby, or shall give, in any particular manner, or upon any particular side of any question or matter upon which he or she may be required to act in his or her official capacity, or gives, or offers or promises to give, any official vote in consideration that another Member of the Legislature, or another member of the legislative body of a city, county, city and county, school district, or other special district shall give this vote either upon the same or another question, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years and, in cases in which no bribe has been actually received, by a restitution fine of not less than two thousand dollars ($2,000) or not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or, in cases in which a bribe was actually received, by a restitution fine of at least the actual amount of the bribe received or two thousand dollars ($2,000), whichever is greater, or any larger amount of not more than double the amount of any bribe received or ten thousand dollars ($10,000), whichever is greater.
Put it this way, there's a Governor in Illinois who just got arrested for this activity.
But instead of indicting Mike Villines, he will be allowed to hold up the California Legislature, confident in the knowledge that Democrats, given little choice with the 2/3 requirement, will come around to his demands. In fact, Villines has already announced his intention to run for Senate in 2014, something that even cranky winger columnist Jim Boren scoffs at.
Villines helped lead the Legislature to an 85-day budget stalemate and then was a party to passing a phony budget that quickly fell apart. And so far, he's done nothing to solve the state budget crisis in the latest round of negotiations. And that's the record he'll run on for his next post?
Do our legislators live in a world where doing badly means you get to move up?
Yes, in a word.
And mind you, what Villines illegally lays out is just a precondition to TALK about revenue increases.
"This is very hard for Democrats to accept," Villines said of his list, which he said he had been distributed to the governor and other legislative leaders. "They'll say that look, 'This goes right to the heart of many things that we care terribly about and we just can't go there.' I understand that because we feel the same way about revenues."
Jim Evans, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, challenged the Republicans to "put a specific $17 billion, half cuts, half revenues, deficit-reduction plan on the table and then we can begin productive conversations."
Villines is holding out hope Democrats will cave. "I think that they'll ultimately come around to this," he said.
Why wouldn't he say that? A criminal who never gets caught usually keeps robbing banks. The learned behavior is that Democrats will give up at some point. And with General Fund revenue down another $1.3 billion in November, and the state due to run out of cash in February, who is going to disagree with him?
Or, the real question is, will anyone arrest Mike Villines for crimes against the state?
UPDATE: Denise Ducheny, Senate Budget Committee chair, sez:
"To the extent they're saying, 'Undo all the labor laws and we're still not voting for taxes,' there's kind of nothing to talk about," Ducheny said.
The correct response is "I am directing the Sacramento police to arrest Mike Villines."
UPDATE 2: Even the Sac Bee describes this as a hostage crisis:
In other words, Republicans are refusing to negotiate. They will only release the hostages after their demands are met.