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California Senators Counter Governor’s Proposed Budget Cuts With Tax Increases


Democrats in the state Senate are countering the governor's proposed budget cuts with a plan to raise taxes by nearly five-billion dollars. We're joined on Morning Edition by nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

Democrats in the California Senate are countering the governor's proposed budget cuts with a plan to raise taxes by nearly $5 billion. We're joined on Morning Edition by nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

DWANE BROWN: Leo, there are four items here. A proposal includes an increase in the alcohol tax, delaying the corporate tax credit, it would also extend both the temporary income tax increase, and the vehicle license fee increase, approved by the legislature last year. Will this help close California's $19 billion budget gap.

LEO MCELROY: This is somewhere between a non-starter and lost in the mail. This is probably the only significant sign that the serious negotiating is a long way from getting started. This package really plays into the Republicans no tax stand, by allowing them to say it's anti-business, these are unpopular taxes, these are ones that are going to hurt people at a time in a bad business client. Essentially, it just allows them to cling to their same rhetoric on no taxes, and I would have to say that most of this package you look at and you just say, this is nothing more than a bargaining chip, and it's not meant to have the shelf life of a mayfly.

PAMELA DAVIS: So this just begins the budget debate that will continue through the summer. What do you think is the next step?

MCELROY: Probably longevity pills. This is going to be a really long one, I think. Normally, you look at an election year and you say well, the legislatures are going to be in a hurry to get this over with because they don't want to extend their session beyond September, so they can go home and campaign. But there are a couple of factors. One is the concern that if Republicans, for example, bounce over too quickly, and cast votes for it, as some Republicans have done in the past, they could share the same fate. There was just a profiles in courage award from the Kennedy Foundation to the four legislative leaders who got together, and put together the budget last year, and it's noticeable that the two Republicans who were honored, both were kicked out by their caucuses after helping negotiate that budget. So there's a political price to be paid on either side. If you're a Republican and vote for the budget, probably lose your position, and otherwise if you don't have a budget, you're going to sit there and negotiate instead of being out campaigning. Neither one is a fate that legislators are looking forward to, but I don't see anything breaking that says there's a window to go through.

BROWN: Two weeks away from the June 8 primary, Leo, the governor's race tightening up, battles over a couple of ballot props, as well, heating up. Why aren't lawmakers very excited about this?

MCELROY: Well, because their races aren't interesting at all. The legislative races in the primary are not particularly interesting or particularly significant. There are only a few where there are party primaries that are real battles and that have real bearing on who's going to win in September. Most of the legislative districts are so slanted, and so guaranteed to one party or the other, that incumbents are virtually assured of being re-nominated, and in a few cases where there is an open primary, it's a matter of whoever wins the primary wins the election. So for lawmakers, this primary season is quiet time. They don't care about this, what they're concerned with is making sure that they're back come the November vote count.

DAVIS: Now the polls show neither Meg Whitman nor Carly Fiorina is doing well with women Republicans. Why is that?

MCELROY: That's a shock. That one's a real shocker. I think a lot of us had thought the gender politics had kind of gone the way of the dinosaur in the past. Years ago there was a study that showed that women candidates suffered badly because women voters tended not to vote for them, that this was the big barrier they had to get through, that there were a number of women who just thought a woman's place just wasn't in politics, and would vote against a woman candidate. We thought those days were over, but we are seeing that same kind of reflex here, in the Republican primary, that Fiorina and Whitman are doing worse among women than they are among men. So it may say that gender politics is still alive and well, at least in the Republican party, and that's not good news for either of those two women.

DAVIS: Nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy. Leo, thanks for joining us this morning.

MCELROY: You bet.

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