Using just majority vote powers, Democrats gave Gov. Jerry Brown's temporary tax hike measure a leg up on the November ballot. They passed a bill giving all constitutional amendments, like the governor's tax proposal and bonds, top billing. Since the water bond will likely be delayed until the 2014 election, critics call it a tricky maneuver. "Lo and behold, the tax measure will be the number one place on this November ballot," Republican Sen. Doug LaMalfa of Richvale said.
Voters tend to mark the "yes" box for measures high up on a long ballot, a boost the governor's tax plan could use since support for it has been sliding in recent opinion polls. The ballot jockeying also appropriates $1,000 to the secretary of state to make the change, which made it an easier-to-pass budget bill.
Democrats deny any political shenanigans here and say that since the tax measure means massive cuts to public education if it doesn't pass, it deserves a high spot. "The governor's tax measure is the most important measure on the ballot. You better believe it. It is the opportunity to end this deficit once and for all," Democratic Sen. Pres. Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento said.
Democrats also sent the governor a measure that eliminates the highly-acclaimed Healthy Families Program, which covers nearly 1 million uninsured kids and phases them in to Medi-Cal. In a reversal to the usual party-line budget fight, Republicans did not want to cut these services. "This action is truly stunning to me because it reaches the level where it is going to hurt so many people," said Republican Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres.
Democrats say the cut is necessary when Republicans don't want to engage in conversations about raising taxes to balance the budget and save programs. "Mr. President, I rise, unfortunately, to support this because I think it's the only way to go," Democratic Sen. Juan Vargas of San Diego said.
The budget plan just approved actually spends $5 billion more than last year. The governor can use his blue pencil though, to cut even more.