For the first time in almost 80 years, one political party now controls two-thirds of both California legislative houses. This supermajority will allow Democrats to raise taxes, override vetoes by the governor and put constitutional reforms before voters. But as Governor Jerry Brown noted, “desires are endless.” So which desires will be fulfilled? Will it be giving back dental care to 3 million poor Californians, or restoring slashed funding to state courts? And can a supermajority fix California’s dysfunction?

Show Highlights

On What Republicans Can Do Now

The question for state Republicans is interesting. They now represent less than 30 percent, 29 percent, of the state's electorate. And if the elections results hold, we'll have less than one third in both houses, wich really leaves them with two options.

Number one, they can stand back and yell. They can say 'Oh, look at those Democrats overreaching. They can try to convince voters two years from now that Democrats over-interpreted their mandate.

The other potential opportunity for them is, and we'll see if they decide to take advantage of it or not, is to work with Gov. Brown on some issues where the governor may differ from the base of the Democratic party: reforming of the regulatory process, for example. [Or perhaps] continuing reform of state pensions. The governor has talked about changing the way public schools are financed. And he mentioned yesterday moving forward on water policy.

Should the Republicans pick their spots and decide to work with the governor, they can still play a small but important role.

On Jerry Brown's Challenge

Governor Brown has a two-front challenge: convincing Democrats to restrain themselves and convincing Republicans, to, at least to some degree, to come back to the table.

[Gov. Brown] is fiscally moderate. His challenge is going to be convincing those members who were elected with strong financial support from interests who have had their budgets cuts over the last [few] years to help him hold the line. It's a tough challenge but he's got the political capital after passing Proposition 30. He's got a good chance of pulling it off.

On Why Brown Might Succeed

With geographic diversity comes ideological diversity. And I think the governor is going to have at least some allies in the legislative caucuses in his efforts to hold the line.

On Why the Legislature Won't Simply Overrule Brown

There are Democrats and there are Democrats. And to parse that a little bit further, there are very, very progressive Democrats in the legislature and there are more centrist ones. And that's the price of having a majority, or certainly a two thirds majority, ideological diversity within a party. And in order to override the veto of a Democratic governor you would need every single Democratic legislative vote, including a lot of Democrats who are indebted to Gov. Brown for their presence in Sacramento. It's not impossible but I think Gov. Brown is a smart enough politician to make it a relatively infrequent occurrence.

-Dan Schnur

To read a transcript of Willie Brown's comments made during the show, click here.


Willie Brown, former mayor of San Francisco who served for over 30 years in the state Legislature
Dan Jacobson, legislative director for Environment California, a statewide citizen-based environmental advocacy organization
Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California
John Kabateck, California executive director for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)
Cathy Campbell, a vice president of the California Federation of Teachers

  • Kurt thialfad

    The most dramatic fact about this state is it’s high population, close to 40 million. This compares with entire countries, such as Argentinia, Poland, Spain, and Kenya. While Europe has an annual population growth rate of 0.1% – point one percent – and the USA, as the 3rd most populous nation on the planet, has a much larger annual population growth rate of 1.1%. California, the most populous state in the 3rd most populous nation, has the highest population growth rate among the states at close to 2%. The state’s population doubled in 42 years. During the same last 42 years, the national population grew by 60%.

    Compare these demographic facts with the fragility of the environment, particularly in regard to water resources, and geologic instability.

    Is there an optimal population size for the state? Is there any more population awareness among Democrats, than Republicans?

  • Skip Conrad

    Some present the argument, that Silicon Valley’s (i.e. Santa Clara Valley) prosperity was sparked by immigrant entrepreneurs. But anybody who was alive in the 1960’s through 1980’s can clearly remember that Santa Clara, (and much of Southern California) was a hub of the defense industry. Hewlett, Packard, Moore, and many others were defense industry veterans.

    A typical job application from back then, always stated clearly at the end:

    Throughout her history, California was subsidized by the federal government, because it was such a strategic asset. However, it seems to be viewed more of a liability by the rest of the nation today. Comments from the guests?

  • Bob Fry

    Can someone explain how Governor Jerry Brown can restrain the Democratic legislators, since they can now override his veto?

  • dave

    On the revenue side, what’s the “low hanging fruit” out there? What I mean is, what are the possible sources of revenue or tax changes that are not controversial on the Democratic side, but which have been blocked on principle by Republicans, and so now could be passed?

  • Ben

    Don’t raise taxes now that voters have raised them already, but DO fix the rule that requires 2/3 majority to pass tax changes. This has hobbled our state for way too long.

  • Guest

    Jerry Brown will not be there forever. The question is what will happen in the long term?

  • erictremont

    I think the Democrats are most likely to “go crazy” if/when the state’s economy improves. I recall that when state tax receipts exploded in the late 1990s, Gray Davis, John Burton, and other leading state Democrats dramatically expanded pension benefits for public employees, thereby contributing to the current state fiscal crisis.

    • Bob Fry

      “Dramatically expanded” for Safety PEs, not so for the majority Miscellaneous. Davis also agreed to whacking the top income tax bracket, never restored, and reducing the VLF.

      I’ve long thought that if tax rates and pension benefits were simply returned to 1998 values we’d all be good.

      • erictremont

        New Jersey and New York have been collecting much higher taxes per-capita than California for years, but they don’t have much to show for it. Their public schools, public hospitals, etc. (like ours) always complain they are starved for funds. There is no evidence that ratcheting up state taxes without other reforms is going to make a difference.

  • Guest

    My expectations are very, very low for this group. Making heroes from cowards will take awhile.

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