California GOP Backs Brown’s Rainy Day Fund

It is no secret that this journal holds California’s Governor Jerry Brown in high regard; indeed, he is the best president America never had. The reasons are simple: the man can see beyond the next election, he is creative in his approach to problem solving, and he is cheap. That latter point forms the basis for the resurrection of California’s finances after the previous mismanagement and Great Recession. Now, he seeks to strengthen them further with a rainy day fund, and if the details can be worked out, he will have Republican votes backing it.

California’s legislature is currently in special session to consider the fund, and if the parties can work out a deal, they will pass the necessary legislation to put the idea on November’s ballot. Thanks to some sneaky and stupid manipulation of the referendum and constitutional processes, most finance innovations in the state must go before the voters. So, even if the pols in Sacramento are unanimous in their final vote, the whole thing can be shot down by the ignorant and uninformed in Barstow, Vacaville and Cucomonga.

The Democrats are 2 votes short of the super-majority they need in the state senate to ram the bill through, and so they have to make some kind of deal. Governor Brown, an idealist who is also great in a political bar fight, has decided to force the GOP to vote on the idea ahead of November’s election and has chosen something they tend to favor as the next step in fixing the state’s finances.

The noises from the right side of both chambers is encouraging. Chris Megerian of the LA Times managed to get these quotations. “It’s a fiscally conservative goal Republicans have been seeking for years,” said Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo), vice chairman of the Assembly budget committee. “I’m just very happy the Republicans can be the fiscal conscience for the taxpayers,” said Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), vice chairman of the Senate budget committee. “That’s good for the people of California.”

Of course, if it were a straightforward proposition, it wouldn’t be politics. The GOP is worried that the way Governor Brown has set it up, the fund could be plundered to pay for California’s bullet train, which is near and dear to the governor’s heart. Under his proposal, the fund could be used with a simple majority vote in both chambers and a declaration of an emergency from the governor.

Mr. Megerian also wrote “Another provision in the governor’s measure would allow lawmakers to spend the money on public works instead of selling bonds approved by voters. Brown is pitching this part of the plan as a way to avoid more debt: By using cash instead of borrowing, the state wouldn’t incur interest.” That means not just the bullet train but any infrastructure project could be funded from this pool.

In the end, the Republicans will likely give the governor the 2 votes he needs because it truly is something they want. They will try to tighten up the controls and may specifically forbid certain uses. And most of the party may still vote against it so that any negative fallout belongs to Governor Brown and the Democrats. After all, the idea has bipartisan appeal but it isn’t non-partisan.