Democrats in California might possibly have pulled off a feat not accomplished in our state since 1933, which was the last time that one party captured a simultaneous supermajority in both houses of the state Legislature. The potential for a supermajority in the state Capitol now puts a spotlight on the party and what it can accomplish toward fixing our state’s structural problems.
Whether the final election results hand Democrats a supermajority depends on some close races that may not be decided for several days. And how long the party could hold on to any such supermajority will depend upon a handful of special elections that would be set in motion by the ascension of some California legislators to the U.S. House of Representatives. But the districts likely to be vacated are in heavily Democratic communities, which at least creates the possibility that supermajorities could remain in place for some time.
The passage of Proposition 30 may create the illusion that California’s state budget has become sustainable and that further fixes are not needed. Nothing could be further from the truth. Prop. 30 will help keep the ship afloat, but no one should be fooled into thinking there is not more work to be done.
A supermajority would allow Democrats to pass legislation unilaterally without the consent of Sacramento’s often-uncooperative Republican minority. If Democrats were to gain this power, there would suddenly be no excuse for failing to progress with all manner of needed reforms. The party would finally be steering the ship.
During a Wednesday morning news conference, Gov. Jerry Brown, who helped put Prop. 30 on the ballot, highlighted his remaining priorities for the state. They included building a sustainable budget, passing education reform and focusing on water reliability issues.
Brown will be a tough person for Democrats to persuade to raise more taxes. He said during his campaign for governor and many times since then that any new taxes in the state will have to go before voters. On Wednesday, he noted that he is not opposed to tax reform, but he is not going to rubber-stamp new levies to bring in money.
Brown clearly articulated what a supermajority would mean for the Democratic Party: “With greater power comes greater responsibility.”
If Sacramento’s Democrats obtain and then hang on to a supermajority, there would be no one to blame for failure but themselves. The party could hunker down and begin to solve our state’s many problems, including Democratic issues such as education reform and prison population reduction, but also challenges such as pension reform where Democrats themselves are often the impediment to progress. The party has persuaded the people to send its candidates to Sacramento. Soon, it will be incumbent upon those representatives to deliver what they promised.