John Burton, the profane San Francisco pol with a soft heart for the poor, is chairman of the California Democratic Party, which holds its convention this weekend. In a normal state, Burton would have cause for celebration, seeing as his party controls virtually every significant office in California. But because of California's broken constitution and fiscal rules, control isn't worth much, particularly at the state level.
Burton knows this. And in an interview in the Contra Costa Times, he concedes what Gov. Jerry Brown won't: that there's no way for the governor to get Republicans to go along with raising revenues. Or at least, there' s no way short of gunplay.
What you could do is reduce the local vote for taxes from two-thirds to 50 or 55 percent. You could do that. People have more faith in local government because they can go directly to their local councilman (and complain).
Brown, Burton says, has "an impossible job. He can try shooting somebody and tell the next guy, 'You don't want that to happen to you, you better step up and vote.' "... What's Jerry going to do unless he took out a gun?"
Burton, also unlike Brown, acknowledges that constitutional reform is needed. He doesn't think the Democrats should push to eliminate the two-thirds requirement for approving taxes on the state level -- that's nearly impossible politically -- but he argues that restrictions on local votes for taxes should be rolled back.
"What you could do is reduce the local vote for taxes from two-thirds to 50 or 55 percent," he said. "You could do that. People have more faith in local government because they can go directly to their local councilman (and complain)."
Which is exactly right. If Californians want to complain about a tax vote in Sacramento, many of them have to get on a plane to get there.