There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Monday, January 12, 2009

The dictatorship of California

When Democratic lawmakers presented their proposal for balancing the state budget, there was one little thing they didn't mention: It would have all but eliminated funding for public transportation -- not just next year but in perpetuity.
That’s how the Los Angeles Times opens an editorial in today’s paper. Of course, the Legislature’s perfidy pales in comparison to the governor’s.
The governor's plan is even worse for public transit; the Democrats want to keep distributing about $150 million the state receives from a tax on diesel fuel to transit agencies, while the governor aims to get the state completely out of the business of funding transit.
The governor being a jerk isn’t really new. I had a post about it when Sacramento Regional Transit joined the protest of his proposal. At least the Democrats can argue that the no-tax-hike-ever Republicans forced their hand. As the Times explains:
It takes a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to pass a budget or raise taxes, and Republicans refuse to consider tax hikes to fill the state's $41-billion budget hole. So Democrats found a clever way around that rule: eliminate the gas taxes, replace them with a user fee that's 13 cents a gallon higher than the current taxes, then raise sales and income taxes by an amount equivalent to the old gas taxes. They can claim that they can raise taxes with less than a two-thirds vote as long as they reduce other taxes by an equal amount. The problem with this shell game is that user fees have strings attached: They can only be spent on things that directly benefit those who pay the fee. So a gasoline fee could only be spent on roads, highways and other systems used by drivers -- and not on public transit.
California will remain ungovernable as long as we have a minority dictatorship. But that dictatorship survives because the majority of voters put self-interest (low taxes) ahead of shared responsibility. What catastrophe will have to befall our state before enough voters wake up to the realization that majority rule is the only solution?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe this is nothing more than a pipe dream fueled by the fact I live in a Assembly district in which the GOP incumbent sadly lacked a Democratic challenger,but are there any interests out there at least considering a recall drive targeting that very same legislative minority?Twice this month I've used the 80 running a Sunday schedule(today and last Sunday),and the light passennger count on those trips both times isn't exactly encouraging either...