They just weren’t misogynist enough or racist enough to win »« And the 2016 presidential campaign begins…NOW

This might just be my favorite result from yesterday

There’s so much opportunity for sweet, sweet schadenfreude coming out of yesterday’s electoral results, from the Big News about Romney losing to local things like Sonny Bono’s widow getting edged out by a progressive Latino physician, thus flipping the Coachella Valley House seat to a non-Republican for the first time since the Reagan Administration. But this one’s my favorite:

California Democrats appear to have picked up a supermajority in both houses of the state Legislature Tuesday night, a surprise outcome that gives the party the ability to unilaterally raise taxes and leaves Republicans essentially irrelevant in Sacramento.

I first moved to California in 1982, just four years into the Great Reign of Stupidity launched when the state’s voters passed Proposition 13 in 1978. Prop 13 was (and is) politically popular due to its strictly limiting property tax increases on residential properties. Since 1978 any criticism of the measure is taken as demanding old people be taxed out of their homes, and thus it’s become a third rail in California politics.

But the measure also did two other things:

  1. It likewise capped property taxes on corporate properties;
  2. It enacted a two-thirds supermajority requirement for any tax increase passed in the state legislature.

Since then, especially as the electorate in California gets younger and browner and more liberal, the whole purpose of the California Republican Party has been to obstruct the state government’s authority to raise and spend money doing frivolous socialist market-meddling things like paving roads, or fixing broken windows in schools, or buying textbooks that were published sometime after the Apollo Program ended. And a fair number of otherwise non-braindead Californians went along for the ride, because who likes taxes?

It was a pretty foolproof business plan on the Republicans’ part:

  1. Slash government income with Proposition 13.
  2. Cut funding to public education, creating two generations of mathematically illiterate Californians
  3. Advocate a series of mathematically unsound economic policies to those Californians
  4. PROFIT!!1!

There have been other horrible effects of Prop 13 besides the obvious cuts in education infrastructure and social services kind. For instance, the cap on property tax assessments provided a serious incentive for municipalities and counties to approve sprawling development so that they could generate revenue by taxing the new properties. Local governments have had little incentive to promote things like infill development, which would add new properties to the tax rolls by destroying existing properties.

And if you’ve paid attention to the Left Coast at all in the last few months, you know the end result of all this: a state teetering on the edge of an insolvency that would make New York City’s crisis in the 1970s look like running out of lunch money — all due to the Republican Party’s stranglehold on the legislative process.

Yesterday the voters of California approved not one but two tax increases — one more a loophole closing on out-of-state businesses — and, it seems, whittled the Republican presence in the Assembly and Senate down just below 1/3. There are still Republicans in Sacramento, and they still serve important functions. For instance, in the case of Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, America’s Stupidest Legislator, he often provides much-needed comic relief.

But now it seems that they may not have much to say about actual adult pursuits like paying for services and raising revenue, because the Dems may well have that supermajority. The Democrats are not in any way immune from the temptation to grandstand or engage in chicanery, but I still allow myself the hopeful sense that maybe, for the first time since I landed here, the grownups will be in charge for a while.

Comments

  1. thewhollynone says

    Thanks, Chris, for the news from California! I am headed out to Orange County to visit my daughter and am curious about the mood out there.

  2. joed says

    Save your hope–it’s only hope for the wrong thing.
    My guess is nothing will change because the corps run the show totally. If there is change it will see the working folks getting ripped-off more and more.
    But it’s simply speculation.

  3. whheydt says

    Actually, Prop. 13 *doesn’t* act as a disincentive to in-fill, since new construction (including capital improvements to existing structures) gets assessed based on the cost of making those improvements, and does so without a lot of new (and costly) infrastructure (e.g. for in-fill, the roads and utilities are already in place).

    What drives those suburbs is developers greasing the palms of all and sundry…and that has nothing to do with Prop. 13.

    (And, sorry, Chris, but I’ve been voting in California since 1970. You weren’t here when Prop. 13 was on the ballot. I was.)

  4. Amphiox says

    My guess is nothing will change because the corps run the show totally.

    Same sex marriages are now legal in 2 more states. And for the first time ever, the right was granted not by a legislature or a court, but by a popular vote.

    Your guess is ALREADY wrong.

  5. Amphiox says

    Granted, he was something of s a jerkass, but he was OUR jerkass.

    I think we have had more than enough of atheist jerkasses, thank you very much.

    I’d take a decent humane theist over an atheist jerkass any day of the week.

  6. says

    Pete Stark did great work for a long time. But he was starting to lose his grasp on reality over the last few months, including mistaking Solyndra for a car company. It’s time for him to enjoy his family while he can.

  7. says

    Oh, and as for “Save your hope”? Save your breath. Realism is always a good thing, but that kind of jaded bullshit I’ve got no more use for than I do the Republican platform.

  8. mcallahan says

    Misguided Californians aligned with Iran by upholding the death penalty. I think the christian nation thinks death is the best penalty because they get to send some criminals and some innocent people straight to hell. For us that don’t think hell exists, the sentence of life without parole is a much more severe sentence. I wish the atheist/ humanist movement was much more outspoken against the death penalty.

  9. lesliesimmons says

    A friend of mine just commented on another blog that, as someone on a fixed income, he’s afraid he’s going to have to start looking for a house in a neighboring state. Because given our financial straits, the new (super)majority might not be able to resist the temptation to raise taxes to the point where he can’t survive.

    It remains to be seen how the Dems and the Governor will behave, of course, but I hope that sanity prevails and potential impacts are well thought out. Still, it’s got to be better, or at least less bad, than the insanity of our post-Prop-13 politics.

  10. says

    I served on the legislative staff in Sacramento in the wake of Proposition 13 and learned about the major players at the time. The capitol was infested with a group of Neanderthal Republicans known as “Prop 13 babies,” who took 13 as sacred scripture and constantly preached the virtues of slash and burn (the public sector, anyway; corporate interests were sacrosanct). Some of them, who actually preceded Prop 13, had devoted themselves to frustrating all attempts at property tax reform, counting on voter frustration to eventually manifest itself at the ballot box — by voting for the latest in a string of anti-tax initiatives. With Prop 13 in 1978, it finally worked.

    Jerry Brown was governor back then and should remember how bad it was. Now he has a chance to repair some of the damage. I hope he and the legislative supermajorities don’t squander the opportunity.

  11. IslandBrewer says

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with Prop. 13 applying to single family residences. Originally as proposed, Prop. 13 only applied to residential property, but was amended shortly before it wound up on the ballot.

    It’s the commercial property stranglehold that has deprived the state of revenue. It’s also created this cadre (is mafia too strong of a word?) of commercial property holders from whom no one can wrest control. Their profit margins are so high because they’re paying taxes based on 1980’s property values, while new buyers are stuck with 2012-valued taxes. There’s a strong disincentive for property turnover, which winds up stifling the economy more.

  12. unclefrogy says

    I had the feeling that when Jerry got (re)elected as governor that california had made a change looks like we are continuing to make changes toward the progressive good.
    OK we can still kill criminals but we did amend the odious 3 strike law to make it more rational. It may be going in the right direction but just like with Sandy we can not be sure its representative of a real change. It ain’t over yet but it sure looks better than it did!

    uncle frogy

  13. DrVanNostrand says

    We failed to end the death penalty and we still have the general problem of our initiative system which allows people to vote for nearly unlimited unfunded mandates, while also voting against any tax increases. For the short term, however, we finally got support for raising some taxes instead of slashing education spending, we finally got 3 strikes reform, and we finally got a Democratic supermajority. I’ll count this as a victory.

  14. allencdexter says

    That’s great news. How I wish that was the situation here in Arizona. We still have “the wicked witch of the west” in solid control here.

    I lived in California when Prop 13 went through and knew it could only lead to future trouble. While they have the chance, the legislature needs to get busy and seize the day.

  15. jamesfrank says

    A lot of good things happened this election but Props 34 and 35 were rather disappointing. Though luckily we’re finally getting some taxation through and our schools won’t go broke without egregious mishandling now.

  16. Suido says

    @mcallahan #11

    I think the christian nation thinks death is the best penalty because they get to send some criminals and some innocent people straight to hell.

    True.

    For us that don’t think hell exists, the sentence of life without parole is a much more severe sentence.

    Wha…? Speak for yourself, I’m pretty fond of life.

    I wish the atheist/ humanist movement was much more outspoken against the death penalty.

    I don’t think you’ll find many humanists for the death penalty. Plenty of atheist/humanist organisations are anti-death penalty… do you have specific suggestions as to how these orgs should be ‘more outspoken’?

  17. Francisco Bacopa says

    Can’t they just put in property tax freezes for old people? That’s how it’s done in Texas, which has very high property taxes. We have no state income taxes, so property taxes can get pretty high as almost anyone can create a taxation authority for any reason. An itemized tax bill can include 17 different property taxes. But most of these taxes have freezes when you hit 65.

  18. DrVanNostrand says

    @21 Francisco
    I’ve always thought the same thing about CA. We should be able to make some sort of policy to keep from taxing retirees out of their homes, while also preventing the absurd situation we’re in now. We have a very high statutory property tax rate, but a very low effective property tax rate. It’s weird.

    @19 jamesfrank
    I’m one of the few Californians that agrees with you on 35. I suspect most voters ignore any and all civil liberties concerns when the proposition is labeled “Stop Human Trafficking”. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like initiatives in general.

  19. Christoph Burschka says

    America’s Stupidest Legislator

    I don’t know Donnelly, but knowing some of the other legislators, this description really gives me a chill.

  20. Sili says

    Granted, he was something of s a jerkass, but he was OUR jerkass.

    Well, bless your heart, dear.

  21. Penny says

    From the other side of the pond….thank you for electing Obama again. Whatever his shortcomings, the thought of Romney having his finger on the button for the next four years was a pretty terrifying thought in the rest of the world. I was so relieved when I heard the news yesterday morning.

  22. says

    Re: IslandBrewer 7 November 2012 at 9:47 pm

    In my adopted town, Santa Cruz, several prime spots – like right in the center of downtown – remained craters for twenty years after the earthquake. Now they’re giant copies of the origina buildings, but still empty.

    The owners don’t lose any money not renting it out, so why rent it out lower than market value? They sat on it for twenty years to rebuilt the original facade – a hideous bank known only for being the ‘town hall’ in Killer Klowns from Outer Space – so what’s another decade?

  23. says

    Money and taxes are not really the problem with Ca schools. The Ca constitution already mandates that 51% of the states budget goes to k-12 schools.

    The problem is shit spending habits at the local level.

  24. rq says

    Also excited on your behalf, from this side of the Atlantic. Wishing you all the best, that the hope pays off, that things start looking up, and that the new bunch in charge are able to resist temptation – at least enough to do some good things. Good luck!

  25. Ichthyic says

    Money and taxes are not really the problem with Ca schools. The Ca constitution already mandates that 51% of the states budget goes to k-12 schools.

    uh, if the RELATIVE general budget funds available have progressively decreased from the passage of prop 13, as they have…

    saying you get 51% of that is not a constant.

    did you really think it was??

    wow.

  26. Ichthyic says

    In my adopted town, Santa Cruz

    gratz!

    I lived in SC for 10 years.

    great place.

    check out the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation sometime.

    tell Sean I said “Hi”

  27. F says

    Heh, I was noticing this:

    For instance, the cap on property tax assessments provided a serious incentive for municipalities and counties to approve sprawling development so that they could generate revenue by taxing the new properties.

    This doesn’t work so well when the taxes are low, as they don’t cover the additional infrastructure needed.

  28. says

    Something else that is getting lost in the brouhaha: In a referendum, voters in Puerto Rico have voted for statehood.

    Legally, Puerto Ricans have been US citizens since 1917; but because the island is not a state, it has no representation in the Senate and no electors. It does have a Resident Commissioner in the House of Representatives, who participates in committee meetings but may not vote on any floor measures (the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, Guam and the Marshall Islands also have a similar delegate in the House.)

    In this poll taken at the polls, Puerto Ricans were offered three choices: Remain a US commonwealth but request greater autonomy, US statehood, or full independence. President Obama had previously promised to uphold their vote and petition Congress on their behalf if there was a clear majority; 54% of the electorate voted for statehood.

    Congress must still act, however. I don’t see it very likely that the Republican Party will allow in a new state that is almost entirely Hispanic and has very strong ties to the Democratic Party: the GOP will pull out every dirty trick they can to prevent this from happening.

  29. Richard Austin says

    Gregory –
    Not quite accurate. There’s a DailyKos diarist who wrote up what happened in PR. Apparently, a huge portion of PR left that section of the ballot blank in part of an organized protest – there’s a 400k vote difference in the totals from the first question and the second. Additionally, the governor who was pro-statehood was narrowly defeated for a pro-commonwealth one.

    So, it’s a bit more nuanced and less pro-state than it seems.

  30. Richard Austin says

    Here’s the full write-up.

    Last paragraph:

    I know there are many good Democrats who see statehood for Puerto Rico as a civil rights issue, but for those of you who see it that way, please understand: my country is still deeply ambivalent about its relationship with the US. We are still working things out. There is no consensus. Any attempt to ram statehood through Congress will only make things worse. Please try to look at this issue through our deeply ambivalent eyes instead of looking at it through the US political lens.

  31. Trebuchet says

    As I understand it, “Status Quo” was not an option on the Puerto Rico vote. It was a vote for alternatives to the status quo. That makes it a pretty weak plebescite.

  32. robro says

    Well put, Chris. Prop 13 was one of the stupidest decisions California voters ever made. It was sold as reducing property taxes for home owners when the biggest winners were corporations, especially agriculture. It was obviously stupid at the time, but Americans just can’t stop salivating long enough to think when “cut taxes” is introduced. We’re constantly sold the line that we are over-taxed, although among developed countries we have one of the lowest nominal tax rates. It’s perhaps the Republicans biggest lie.

    Also note that San Francisco passed a local proposition to levee a parcel tax, in other words a property tax, to provide much needed funding for City College. We’ve had a raft of such parcel taxes over the years to cover the short fall for education from the state. The end result is that property taxes in SF, while still low, are not nearly as low as Prop 13 promised.

    City College is one of the largest community colleges in the country serving over 100k students. It’s in jeopardy of losing accreditation, and needless to say budget cuts have been a big factor in that. ANd the tuition increases have made it much harder for students, many of whom support themselves or come from families with very limited means.

    It’s almost laughable that Wikipedia describes City College as a “two year community college.” Class cut backs and summer closures mean it’s practically impossible to get all the classes you need to finish an AA in 2 years.

    About the tuition increases: I heard one commentator on a local PBS talk show state that the tuition increases meant that more students qualified for financial aid, thus actually lowering the income of the school.

  33. shades says

    It’s selfish of me, but the thing I ate most about Prop 13 is that it clearly inspired all of Tim Eyman’s bullshit initiatives up here in Washington. He successfully got a property tax cap through a few years back, and his new 2/3s vote for tax increases initiative just went through, as well — the one dark, dark spot in a mostly bright election (after the last initiative that had that requirement was struck down as unconstitutional — I believe under the one subject law, but perhaps something else).

    Above and beyond *that*, he also successfully got an initiative passed that requires the citizens have ‘advisory’ (non binding) votes on any revenue increases, which means a load of confusing, minor issues showing up on the ballot which most people are terribly uninformed about. Stuff that would normally be the ‘business’ of the legislature. I assume people who voted for that one were excited about the idea of direct democracy, without thinking about why we have a representative democracy and how it works.

    We had two advisory votes this year. They were both on closing ridiculous tax loopholes, and if they’d been clear a ‘yes’ should have been a no-brainer. They both lost overwhelmingly. *headdesk*

  34. DLC says

    The right are seeing a phenomenon whereby the country seems to be slowly “turning blue” politically. The country is also (much to the discomfort of the KKK set) turning browner. The right found themselves in the position where the typical Right Wing talking points fell on less receptive ears, and where the typical racist dog-whistles often backfired.

  35. RFW says

    I used to work in the property assessment field. Proposition 13 was a by-word for the kind of property tax system you don’t want.

    Among my conclusions about Prop. 13 was that there was a very specific cause, a cause that could have been corrected pretty easily and with a lot less fallout to California’s disadvantage. In California, when bond issues and new property taxes are voted on, what’s enshrined in the result is an absolute tax rate. When Prop. 13 passed, property values had been soaring, and because of fixed tax rates, so had property tax bills. Local government in California at the time was awash in money. No wonder there was a tax revolt but too bad it had to be led by an Old Fart™ who thought taxes per se were a Bad Thing.

    Here in BC, all property taxation rests on tax rates that must be re-struck annually. When property values go up, as they are wont to do, some idiot municipal councils keep their old rates and try to blame the evil assessor, but that doesn’t play very well anymore.

    It’s my opinion that had California gotten rid of those enshrined absolute tax rates and instead enshrined the annual revenue needed to finance (say) a bond issue, Prop. 13 would have been stillborn.

    The scary thing is that in BC’s legislation, the proviso about annually re-striking property tax rates doesn’t look like it was anything more than a fairly casual addition to the law, without foreknowledge of the long term consequences. And California’s habit of legislating absolute tax rates is likely nothing more than a bad habit held over from the days when property values weren’t chronically subject to bubbles and collapses.

  36. RFW says

    I should add something else about BC’s property tax system: there are provisions to prevent people from being taxed out of their homes. Home owners over 60 y.o. can defer their entire property tax bill, with only simple interest accumulating until the property is finally sold years later. And long term residents can require that their homes be assessed without regard for any development potential

    You might call these safety valves.

  37. marksletten says

    A state that consistently ranks among the top five for highest tax burdens in the country and it’s the minority Republicans’ fault California is going broke?

    Hmmmmmm.

  38. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Chris Clarke@47,

    Given the way the right does math, as demonstrated in the recent election campaign, I don’t think marksletten will find anything amiss with 1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1 = 4.

  39. says

    Re: Chris Clarke 8 November 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Don’t forget, per capita or per GDP California’s budget woes are actually middle of the pack, too. Trolls love to harp on the budget woes’ size – but ignore the size of California’s GDP, population, area, or even revenue.

  40. says

    RFW #43:

    Here in BC, all property taxation rests on tax rates that must be re-struck annually. When property values go up, as they are wont to do, some idiot municipal councils keep their old rates and try to blame the evil assessor, but that doesn’t play very well anymore.

    tell that to the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council, which refuses to even temporarily increase taxes to allow for even the maintenance of current transit service levels. because every time the prospect comes up Jordan Bateman is all over the Province and Vancouver Sun wailing about how “taxpayers” can’t afford anything new, not even road pricing.

  41. marksletten says

    Chris said:

    That would be true if…

    Our definitions of “tax burden” differ. When I think tax burden I think what percentage of my income goes to the State. By that measure, CA consistently ranks in the top five according to the Tax Foundation (taxfoundation.org).

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2012/10/28/state-taxes-states-highest-lowest/1654071/

    http://money.cnn.com/2012/10/23/news/economy/state-tax-burdens/index.html

    As the article at your Wikipedia link notes, Alaska does collect more in taxes per capita than any other State, but the majority of that burden is not borne by Alaska’s residents.

    (I realize there are some who automatically discount the findings of the Tax Foundation, but this seems to be the go-to tax research organization used by the media. If someone has other/better data please share.)

    Regardless, none of this responds to my point (which, admittedly, wasn’t entirely clear in my previous post–effective smartphone-driven pith is a skill I am still learning). CA residents are among the highest taxed in the nation, and yet the State is going broke. Your post completely ignores the role of government spending in generating the State’s fiscal problem.

    Crissa said:

    Trolls love to harp on the budget woes’ size…

    Clearly, your definition of “troll” is as, um, liberal as your definition of tax burden…

  42. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    CA residents are among the highest taxed in the nation, and yet the State is going broke. Your post completely ignores the role of government spending in generating the State’s fiscal problem.

    Gee, it is a proven fact prop. 13 killed California fiscally. Due to ignorance. And you have no solution. More revenue from the high earners/commercial property owners is a good solution. You have no solution except slogans.

  43. marksletten says

    More revenue from the high earners/commercial property owners is a good solution. You have no solution except slogans.

    ???

    Do you believe every tax dollar spent by CA politicians is spent wisely? Do you disagree that spending less will accomplish the same mathematical goal of balancing the budget as collecting more revenue? Why is “more revenue” any less a slogan than “spend less?”