Jerry Brown on Budget, Polarized Political Culture, and ‘Tiny Number of Minds’ Who Understand the Process
John Myers, KQED’s Sacramento Bureau Chief, talked to Jerry Brown yesterday over the phone about the status of budget negotiations. One current sticking point: In order to balance the budget, Brown wants what he’s calling a “bridge tax,” a temporary extension of taxes set to expire July 1, before an election on their final status in November.
What I usually find interesting about Brown’s public comments is that between some obvious talking-point language, he tends to insert some pretty interesting observations. Here’s the full audio interview.
And here’s a written summary of Brown’s answers…
On the status of budget negotiations
“Republicans are not unified,” Brown says. “Some Republican legislators I think are still very open to a reasonable budget proposal with tax extensions, from July 1, resulting in an election in the fall. There’s still plenty of good will and plenty of time to put the deal together.” Somewhat paradoxically, the governor followed that with, “however, time is running short.”
On the reasons for his wanting the “bridge taxes”
It’s just a very tiny number of minds that can actually fathom how to get through this maze of complexity called the California budgetary structure.
“I certainly don’t want to have some kind of a budget that makes massive cuts, and then the people want to vote yes,” which would require restoring the revenue later, Brown said. “That kind of operation doesn’t make sense, it’s not mechanically doable, and its’ very bad public policy.”
On whether the June 15 deadline for passing a budget in order that legislators keep getting paid will help expedite a deal
“It might, it might.”
On how the process has changed since he was governor in the 1970s and ’80s
What I’m finding very paradoxical, there are many Democrats who don’t want the voters to vote because they feel that maybe they’ll’ vote the taxes down. There are many Republicans on the other hand who don’t want the people to vote because they think the people might actually vote to approve the tax extensions.
“What’s changed now is with all the budgetary constitutional amendments and other spending locked into the constitution. Things are very complicated. It’s just a very tiny number of minds that can actually fathom how to get through this maze of complexity called the California budgetary structure… It’s almost impossible to understand all the details and ramifications.
“Secondly, the two parties are more polarized. They live in different places, they go to different churches, different kinds of recreation; this is a real culture gap we have in California between the two political parties, and it makes governing in the overall public interest extraordinarily difficult.”
On whether the GOP strategy all along was to delay having an election before the taxes in question expired, so that Republicans could then say they couldn’t vote for a tax increase.
“If they really thought it through that much… I’m telling you the depth of thinking, reflection, and analysis is not something that would impress you. So, I would just say that people are more reactive; it’s kind of a day to day thing, and how we got here is not as important as the fact that we still have a path forward…”
On whether he has a Plan B
I haven’t seen a Plan B that I find palatable.
On Brown allies expressing uneasiness at putting the tax measures on the ballot.
What I’m finding very paradoxical, there are many Democrats who don’t want the voters to vote because they feel that maybe they’ll’ vote the taxes down. There are many Republicans on the other hand who don’t want the people to vote because they think the people might actually vote to approve the tax extensions. So we have only the common denominator of not letting the people decide, and that’s something I can’t go along with. Because in our democracy, when we are in a breakdown, the only breakthrough is the vote of the people.