newport beach

California gets its day in the sun

Just to pick up on what happened in my neck of the woods out here in California. It turned out to be a great night. The tax revolt is dead, or at least not a binding religious totem, the way it was described here for the last 35 years. Prop 30, which temporarily raises income taxes on wealthy earners and 1/4 cent sales taxes on everyone, passed with 54% of the vote. Schools will not be shut down an additional 20 days. Public safety budgets will swell. Most polls had this topping out at 48% support leading up to the vote, so it defied expectations. In addition, Prop 39, which repeals a corporate tax break worth $1 billion, passed easily. Three strikes was reformed with Prop 36, which will save money. Unfortunately Prop 34 (repeal the death penalty) and Prop 37 (GMO labeling) didn’t pass, owing to persistent moralism and big money in opposition. But on budget issues, California looks much more solid now, and increasing tax receipts in a recovery will provide even more of a boost.

But that’s not all. The real story is that Democrats have appeared to get a 2/3 majority in both houses of the legislature, though it’s not official yet.  The state Dem Party will never admit it now, but spokesmen and high-level officials explicitly described this as “impossible” and akin to Obama winning Alabama, at least with regards to the state Assembly; the state Senate was seen as within reach. This is akin to winning a legislative majority, since there are 2/3 requirements that stifle Democrats from raising revenues, i.e. half of the budget equation. So add that to the state legislative chambers Democrats took this year.

What made the difference on this impossible victory, rendering Republicans completely irrelevant in the state? 1 million voters registered online in late September and October, when online voter registration was introduced.  This completely flipped up the maps in the state, and made the impossible suddenly possible.  It looks like we’ll see between 3 and 4 Congressional pickups for Democrats as well, though three races (incumbent Republicans Brian Bilbray, Dan Lungren and Mary Bono Mack are all losing right now) are very close.

The 2/3 majority is needed to pass revenue measures in the state, and we’ll have to see what Democrats do with it.  But the irony, then, is that it took all this time for a major tax measure to pass in California, and the legislature now has the numbers to do it themselves. And they didn’t think they would have it. Online voter registration completely changed the voter universe in California. Over 2/3 of those who registered online were Democrats. In coming years, we’re going to see same day voter registration in the state, and that will change the electorate even more, making Republicans even more irrelevant. It shows what you can do if you pass things that expand political participation.

Photo by Jed Langdon under Creative Commons license