In a stunning election surprise, California voters handed the Democratic Party supermajorities in both legislative houses, the state's first simultaneous supermajority since 1933. That means Democrats have the two-thirds majority vote necessary not only to raise taxes, but also override gubernatorial vetoes. Experts credit the new political district lines drawn by a citizen's commission in helping the Senate get that supermajority. In the assembly, the weeks-old online voter registration boosted Democrats.
The new numbers worry Republicans who now won't have much say in major policy. "I think in a supermajority, they've got a lot of power and typically, when you have too much power you can go awry," Sen. Ted Gaines of Roseville.
Senate President Darrell Steinberg denies that raising taxes is on next session's agenda. "I certainly don't intend to suggest to my colleagues that the first thing we do with our new powers is to go out and seek to raise more taxes," he said. But at the same time, he also said it's time to bring back some programs that have suffered through billions of dollars in budget cuts over the years. "We will take the opportunity to fight for and restore some of the worst of the worst cuts," he said.
Californians still have the executive branch to potentially block any tax measure the legislature might pass through. The governor says he'll make sure the legislature doesn't over-indulge and reminded people of a campaign promise he made. Asked if he will use the supermajority to raise more taxes Brown said, "No, I already said the only way to raise a tax is to ask the people." However, he wouldn't commit to a veto either. "So if they pass a tax, you'll veto it?" a reporter asked him. "Well, we're not into the threat game here," he said.
Brown wants to use supermajority powers to recalibrate business regulations and improve education. Steinberg wants tax and initiative reform.