Over the past months we have been watching those who live in the Mideast and North Africa protest in an effort to obtain the vote. In Egypt, after 18 days of protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square, to avoid bloodshed President Hosni Mubarak stepped down from the position he had held for nearly 30 years. In Libya, dictator since a 1969 military coup Muammar Gaddafi (aka Moammar Gadhafi) chose bloodshed and NATO commenced its missile bombardment. Meanwhile, in California a battle continues over whether to allow the people to vote whether to continue the current state rates for income, sales and vehicle registration taxes or receive reduced state services like education of our children and security on our streets.
Through a majority legislative vote, California could continue the current tax rates, but Governor Brown chose to allow the people to decide whether to continue the current rates in a statewide vote. To have a vote, two-thirds of the state senate and two-thirds of the state assembly must approve placing this issue on the ballot. In an effort to meet the two-thirds requirement, the governor has been speaking with a handful of Republicans who are standing up to right-wing threats and meeting with the governor. Conservative Republican spokesmen have labeled the Republicans who are speaking with the Governor as the "Rogue Five." According to the Los Angeles Times, right-wing Republicans are threatening "the political death penalty for any GOP lawmaker who compromises with Brown and dares vote to call a special election on taxes." Republican spokesman Jon Fleischman urges Republicans "to stand in solidarity with overtaxed Californians, and to stop offering to place higher taxes on the ballot."
Regardless of Fleischman's words, Governor Brown is not seeking to raise taxes. The governor is seeking only to let the people vote on whether they favor continuance of the present tax level or reduction of critical services. Additionally, Fleischman erroneously implies that all good Republicans favor lower taxes over receipt of state services.
Many good Republicans, like the founder of the Republican Party Abraham Lincoln, recognize the value of a unified government serving all the people. Not all Republicans are concerned only with lower taxes. In a time when many Democrats see Republicans as motivated by blind greed, and many Republicans see Democrats as motivated by a blind relinquishment of our government to labor unions, it is refreshing to see courageous Republicans, like Senators Tom Harman of Huntington Beach, Anthony Cannella of Ceres, Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo, Bill Emmerson of Hemet and Tom Berryhill of Modesto, talking with the governor. A few brave Assembly Republicans are also talking with the governor. These public-minded representatives are willing to set aside the party label and do what is best for all those they represent, not just the few who would abolish government if it meant lower taxes. None of us enjoy paying taxes, but Governor Brown just desires to have the people vote whether to reduce taxes from the current level or continue to receive the services the state provides, like educating our children and protecting us from destructive fires and wanton criminals. Over 200 years ago, our founding fathers led by statesmen like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson created a democracy where we the people choose how we are governed. Governor Brown seeks to follow this fundamental American principle.
Governor Brown's proposed 2011-2012 budget anticipates an income to the State of around 86.4 billion dollars and provision of services costing slightly more than $86.6 billion dollars. (2011-2012 Governor's Budget General Fund Budget Summary, Figure SUM-02.) The proposed income includes the amount the state will receive if it maintains the current tax levels. If the voters chose not to continue taxes at the current level, the State will receive almost nine billion dollars less income. Like our individual households, the state cannot spend money it does not have. Governor Brown's proposed budget reduces almost six billion dollars in state expenditures for health and social services and almost two billion dollars for secondary education. As a result of the drastic cuts the governor proposed, the state budget is bare-bones. If the people choose to reduce income the state will receive by voting to lower taxes from the current rate, the state will have to reduce expenditures by around nine billion dollars. If reduction in income forces less for the schools our small children attend, districts will have to choose between many more children per class, shorter school years and fewer days of school per week. If reduction in income forces less for security, fewer fire personnel will respond to emergencies and fewer police will protect our communities. Before Governor Brown took office, he told us that because of the budget deficit we faced tough times. Now he wants to allow the people to choose where those tough times should fall, on our children's education and the safety of our neighborhoods or on all of us through postponement of a reduction in taxes. The Republicans who are speaking with the governor about allowing the people to vote should be praised -- not threatened with the political death penalty.
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