Thursday, February 24, 2011

Assemblymember Donald Wagner's 'Taxpayers Caucus' Stands Firm for Tea Party Principles in Sacramento

I met Assemblyman Wagner a couple of times last year during the tea party events in the O.C. He's replaced Chuck DeVore in the legislature, and he's wasting no time in laying down a bedrock conservative agenda for the assembly session. I recall at the Republican Central Committee meeting I attended, in January 2010, local big shots were tripping over each other to see who'd be the most genuine anti-tax crusader. The O.C.'s still pretty conservative, in an overwhelming Blue State, so it was refreshing. And so is the news from Sacramento on Wagner's new "Taxpayers Caucus." See the Los Angeles Times, "California GOP group takes hard-line stance against tax hikes":

More than two-thirds of the Republicans in the Legislature took a hard-line stance Wednesday against Gov. Jerry Brown's budget plan, forming a new group and pledging to block the governor's efforts to let voters extend tax hikes.

The unusual effort highlighted the deep partisan divisions in the statehouse as Brown and lawmakers race to pass a state spending plan. So far, 22 of the 27 GOP Assembly members and eight of the 15 GOP state senators have signed on to the new "taxpayers caucus."

At a news conference on the Capitol steps, Assemblyman Donald Wagner (R-Irvine), a co-chairman of the caucus, said the message to Brown was clear: "You're not getting Republicans to go for tax increases."

Brown has proposed deep cuts in state services and wants to ask voters to agree to extend for five years billions of dollars in sales, income and car taxes. The governor needs at least four GOP votes, two in the Assembly and two in the state Senate, to place a tax measure on the ballot.

Conservatives are already branding the group's nonmembers as potential GOP traitors. The two chairmen of the caucus, Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark) and Wagner, went on the popular John and Ken radio show Wednesday as the conservative KFI-AM (640) duo posted phone numbers and photos of the non-signers and rallied listeners.

"You're going to see very intensified grassroots efforts" turning up the heat on nonmembers, said Jon Fleischman, an influential GOP blogger who attended Wednesday's news conference.
This is going to be interesting, especially since California is the nation's budget basket case. And Jerry Brown's playing for keeps on this. See the breaking update, "Gov. Jerry Brown tells legislators he will push for a $25-billion cut in California's budget unless voters OK tax extension."

RELATED: Check this column from progressive George Skelton, who makes the comparison between California and Wisconsin, "
The pension haves vs. the have-nots":
A statewide poll in December by Democratic pollster Jim Moore found that 62% of likely voters — including 54% of Democrats — considered "the escalating cost to taxpayers" of public employee pensions to be a "very serious" issue.

In a January 2010 poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, 70% of likely voters — including 61% of Democrats —favored changing government retirement benefits from pensions to 401(k)-type plans.

The legislative analyst has suggested that the state consider adopting a "hybrid" retirement program that would include less generous "defined benefit" pensions combined with a "defined contribution" 401(k).

"In defined contribution programs," the analyst continued, pointing out something private-sector workers already are painfully aware of, "if the investment returns don't materialize, that risk is placed on the employee, not on the employer or the taxpayer."

Actually, free enterprise employees should be rooting for government workers in hopes that at least some retirement security can be retained in America.
Actually, that's the wrong takeaway here. Those "free enterprise employees" are also the taxpayers financing the public-sector. If the system's truly unsustainable, what matters most is economic growth creating a rising tide that lifts all boats and fattens investment portfolios. But like I said, it's going to interesting how things turn out.