Monday will be the last day in the legislature for Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, according to news reports, after the Los Angeles Democrat was recently elected to Congress in a special election to replace Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
Gomez has allegedly been dragging his feet on being sworn into the House of Representatives because he has wanted to be available to provide a needed vote to extend the state’s draconian “cap-and-trade” program.
With Gomez’s imminent departure, there is talk that Monday might be the day when the California Assembly votes on legislation being pushed hard by Governor Jerry Brown to extend cap-and-trade, currently set to expire in 2020, for another ten years. Originally authorized on a majority vote, because of various circumstances Brown really wants a two-thirds vote to ensure the program, if determined to be a tax by the courts, would not be overturned.
Of course it is a tax – and a huge one. The program sets arbitrary caps on greenhouse gas emissions for anyone producing them, and then basically charges them a lot of money if they bust those caps. It moves hundreds of millions of dollars from the private sector into the hands of a greedy state government to spend on favorite programs. In Jerry Brown’s case, he loves spending money from this tax for his high-speed rail boondoggle.
No matter where you stand on whether global warming is taking place, and if it is being exacerbated by man-made carbon emissions, the fact is that California emissions account for such a miniscule portion of total planet-wide emissions that the program is more about the revenue than anything else.
Today is an important day for Republicans, though – to show that, despite being the super-minority, they can stay unified to end unfair and punitive over-taxation and over-regulation in the state. Virtually every Republican in the state legislature campaigned on pushing back on these kinds of programs. Cap-and-trade is the poster child for big government over-regulation.
The bad news is that, in theory, if Democrats are unified, they can extend the life of this terrible program for ten more years without a single GOP vote. But the good news for California taxpayers is that Democrats are not unified. There are some moderate Democrats who see how this program is hurting small- and medium-sized businesses in their districts. And believe it or not, there are some environmental zealots in the Democrat Caucus who think that this program doesn’t go far enough!
The division among Democrats means that if Republicans stay unified, they can probably keep the bill from coming up Monday. If it does come up, it may very well fail to get the two-thirds vote. When Gomez departs for Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., it will be that much harder to put cap-and-trade back together.
That would give Republicans a definitive “win” to take to donors and activists, to demonstrate that they are still unified against capricious taxation and regulation. Given that cap-and-trade means an estimated 30 to 75 cents of additional costs on a gallon of gas, Republicans voting to extend the program would undercut the major political issue handed to them when the Democrats jammed a gas tax increase through the legislature.
Not to mention that Republicans voting to extend cap-and-trade would have fun trying to explain to their constituents: “Yeah, well, I voted to increase the cost of your gasoline, because if I didn’t I thought something else might pass that would make gas prices go even higher.”
If Democrats want to press for an even more extreme regulatory scheme than the cap-and-trade program – let them announce it, let them own it, and let them campaign on it.
And if Republicans vote to extend this program, it’s a win-win for the Democrats. They get the program they want, and a huge knife slices through the Republican caucus, at a time when unity is critical for trying to climb out of super-minority status.
Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor of Breitbart California. His columns appear regularly on this page. You can follow Jon on Twitter here.