“Republicans can’t make the stretch to balance the budget.”
That’s what Darrell Steinberg, leader of the State Senate and highest-ranking Democrat, said to California newspaper leaders Wednesday. In his mind, the refusal of GOP lawmakers to raise taxes means they just don’t care what happens to state government.
That’s bunk according to Tom Berryhill, Lodi’s Republican state senator. I had an hour with him in his office later in the day.
“Look,” Berryhill said, The Democrats "are going to increase your taxes with or without the GOP.” He believes a temporary tax increase is inevitable.
During budget talks last fall, his party held out for a concessions that would fix things for the long-term and shorten the tax increase.
"We’ve had 50 years of mismanagement (in California),” Berryhill said. Right now, lawmakers and the public can see that and there's a unique opportunity to make sacrifices and get spending under control.
Last fall, Berryhill contends Republicans would have backed tax hikes if they had gotten three things:
• Pension reform, so employee costs don’t continue to run away.
• A spending cap and a “rainy day fund,” which will make sure we don’t flirt with bankruptcy again when the California economy hiccups.
• Streamlined environmental permitting so California’s construction industry can lead the state’s economy out of the recession.
Republicans also asked to the shortest possible time for a temporary tax increase.
Berryhill is satisfied with Gov. Jerry Brown’s pension reform.
The spending cap and rain-day fund didn’t get through the legislature.
Streamlining the California Environmental Quality Act was a mixed bag — the government’s public works projects can now be streamlined. Private industry projects still must have stringent environmental impact reports.
The failure of certain Democrat constituents to compromise shows they just don’t care, he said.
Now the governor’s proposed temporary tax increases will be on the November ballot.
Berryhill says GOP legislators would endorse that measure if they get the rest of their reforms. Is a GOP endorsement crucial to passage?
That’s something for the politicians to guesstimate and debate. But then again “everything’s negotiable,” said Berryhill. Maybe the GOP would budge if they get one of their demands?
Who says the art of compromise is dead?