I have never enjoyed reading a Capitol Alert more that Tuesday’s item about Darrell Steinberg and John Perez suing to prevent the state controller’s office from being able to make state lawmakers honor the clear intent of Proposition 25 and forfeit pay if they could pass a budget on a simple majority vote but didn’t do so by June 15. Why do I enjoy it so? Because it blows the lid off the phony media narrative that the Republicans in the Legislature are the bad guys for not agreeing to raise taxes to fund a broken status quo. This story shows the true bad guys are the ones in charge — the ones who hold taxpayers in contempt and whose main job is to serve as tax collectors for the union state, enablers of trial lawyers and enforcers for the green cultists in the Bay Area and West L.A.
That Prop. 25 was a union power grab has been obvious from day one. It was placed directly on the ballot by Democratic lawmakers and its biggest supporters were public and private union groups and a trial lawyers front group. The campaign ads that began running in late summer 2010 presented it as an attack on the nincompoops running Sacramento who could never pass a budget on time — ads that were crafted by the nincompoops running Sacramento. They used their own unpopularity as a lever to change the course of state politics.
But why would the people running Sacramento do this if it could mean that their lawmaker lackeys might actually lose money as a result?
Because Steinberg, Perez, the CTA, the CFT, AFCSME, SEIU, etc., never imagined that anyone who mattered would ever take the intent of Prop. 25 seriously. Remember, all Prop. 25 says is this:
Provides that if the Legislature fails to pass a budget bill by June 15, all members of the Legislature will permanently forfeit any reimbursement for salary and expenses for every day until the day the Legislature passes a budget bill.
The Legislature passes fake budgets every year, so lawmakers, unions and trial lawyers figured all they would have to do is pass another one by June 15 and that would suffice, even if it were a complete joke. And this time they could pass a budget that was even faker than normal, because they wouldn’t need any Republican votes to reach the old two-thirds threshold.
But Controller John Chiang wouldn’t go along with this shell game on taxpayers and rejected a fraud of a budget put forward by the Legislature, leading to Tuesday’s lawsuit.
Steinberg and Perez, you see, can’t have any fairness, honesty, accountability, integrity or honor in their Sacramento. They’ve got a long and pathetic tradition to uphold.
And now this long and pathetic tradition is on full view.
I concede that there is a very real chance that Steinberg and Perez will win in court. They have a very poorly written initiative to target with no defined enforcement mechanism — just as they knew when they placed it on the ballot.
But, of course, the principled thing to do would be to say, “Hey, this is a real problem — if it’s not the controller’s office role to protect taxpayers, we still need to have someone independent decide whether we’re passing real budgets or sham budgets.”
Instead, we see a masquerade of principle.
“We believe those actions exceeded the authority of the controller’s office,” Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said. “This is fundamentally an issue of separation of powers.”
No, John, it’s not. Fundamentally, this is about how Sacramento is run to benefit a small core of Democratic interest groups — unions, trial lawyers, greens — and no one else. This group manipulates the political process to preserve the appearance it’s crusading for “social justice,” responsible environmentalism and the greater good. This scam is executed with the aid of a supplicating media who never notice how public employees fare so much better than the poor, the blind and the disabled whenever there is a state budget crunch, and who never notice that the state’s grandiose green policies are regressive assaults on the poor that sharply increase energy costs while not actually doing a thing to reduce global warming.
I look forward to seeing how George Skelton interprets Steinberg’s and Perez’s Prop. 25 betrayal through his Republicans-and-low-taxes-are-the-problem prism, or through the mentality on display in his still mind-boggling column noting that he didn’t know anyone who didn’t believe that Jerry Brown should have lied to voters and reneged on his promise not to seek tax hikes without a public vote.
I look forward to Dan Morain explaining that it is no big deal that lies were used to sell Prop. 25 to the public, just as he argued it is no big deal that lies were used to sell the bullet train atrocity.
The Sacramento pundits have their role and — for the most part — they’re sticking to it. To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, no one will go broke underestimating how much they’re in the tank for the status quo.
Mencken also wrote that government, in its essence, amounted to “organized exploitation.” If only the Sage of Baltimore could have been the Sage of Sacramento. In Sacramento, the sages run cover for exploitation.
Great, just great.