California Voters Punish Republican Triangulators by Rejecting Proposition 70

Chad Mayes and Jerry Brown (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press
Newport Beach, CA

California voters passed four uncontested bond measures on Tuesday, and then trounced Proposition 70 as punishment for Republican “triangulators” who extended climate change taxes for another decade.

Four propositions had virtually no opposition and passed easily, including:

  • Proposition 68, which authorized the state to borrow $4.1 billion to invest in parks, wildlands and water systems in poorer communities, passed with 56 percent support;
  • Proposition 69, which required revenue from Gov. Brown’s very unpopular gas tax increase to restricted to only being spent on fixing roads, received 80.4 percent support;
  • Proposition 71, which made a technical fix that ballot measures must not be implemented until all votes are counted and results certified, won 73.6 percent support; and
  • Proposition 72, which provided a property tax exemption for homeowners that install rainwater capture systems starting in 2019, received an election-high 83.3 percent support.

But voters demonstrated their anger against the eight Republican legislators that cynically provided the two-thirds majority to extend Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s AB 32 “cap-and-trade” legislation to restrict the growth of greenhouse gasses (GHG) through 2020 by requiring businesses and utilities to cut carbon dioxide emissions or buy state auction credits.

AB 32 has been generating about $1 billion a year from greenhouse gas auctions that has allowed the Sacramento Democrat majority to spend: “1) 25 percent for the state’s high-speed rail project, (2) 20 percent for affordable housing and sustainable communities grants (with at least half of this amount for affordable housing), (3) 10 percent for intercity rail capital projects, and (4) 5 percent for low carbon transit operations. The remaining 40 percent is available for annual appropriation by the Legislature,” according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

But last summer, with the program running down to a 2020 expiration, not all Democrats were willing to extend the tax for a decade and risk suffering the wrath of voters in 2018.

Despite California Republican Party promises to oppose all Democrat tax increases, Gov. Jerry Brown convinced enough Republicans to enter a “Grand Bargain.” He recruited then- Republican Assembly Leader and adamant “Never Trumper” Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) to convince another seven Republican legislators to “triangulate” away from their stated anti-tax promise to pass the extension.

The Orange County Register called Mayes and his Republican fellow triangulators “duplicitous snollygosters.” The Register claimed that the GOP members’ real motivation was “big ticket campaign contributions and independent expenditures showered upon them by their wealthy corporate benefactors, who wanted this pork-laden bill because they were able to stack it with things like tax credits for utility companies.”

Mayes claimed that the deal forced Gov. Brown to support putting Proposition 70 on the June ballot, which — if passed — would require the legislature, starting in 2024, to obtain a two-thirds vote to set cap-and-trade spending priorities.

But 63.6 percent of voters rejected Proposition 70 — either because they wanted the funds to be spent freely, or because they wanted to punish Republicans for breaking their promises.

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