Greed and Ambition Fuel Prop. 14

Promoters of Proposition 14 on the June ballot are calling it the “open” primary.

Ah yes “open” makes it sound so inclusive so liberating so egalitarian — what could possibly be wrong with that? If you pay taxes in California the answer is: plenty!

Prop. 14 is the result of collusion between an ambitious politician newly appointed Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and entrenched Sacramento spending interests. A year ago then-Senator Maldonado a Republican sold his vote for the most massive tax increase in the history of all 50 states in return for an agreement to place a measure on the ballot that would make it easier for him to run for statewide office. That measure is Proposition 14.

Maldonado who voted for increases in the sales income and car tax in direct violation of a voluntary pledge he made to voters in his district calls himself a “moderate.” This of course is an insult to genuine political moderates who do not regard betraying an oath to their constituents as a part of their political philosophy.

The response to Prop. 14 by many politicos and special interests that rely on state spending has been much like Br’er Rabbit’s famous plea. “Drown me! Roast me! Hang me! Do whatever you please” said Br’er Rabbit. “Only please Br’er Fox please don’t throw me into the briar patch.”

Why do they actually like the Proposition 14 system? Because it would make it easier to elect “moderates” like Maldonado willing to support new taxes to feed the Sacramento spending beast.

So exactly how does Prop. 14 work? Unlike a genuine open primary where voters can chose on election day which party’s primary they wish to participate in Prop. 14 allows candidates to run for office without a party designation. Voters must choose between all the candidates presenting themselves on the ballot. This system is actually a “free-for-all.” The top two vote-getters from the mob of candidates then face a runoff election meaning that two candidates from the same party could easily become the final contenders. No write-in candidates would be allowed and representatives of smaller parities would rarely if ever appear on the final ballot.

The real threat to taxpayers is the likely election of more Republicans in the Maldonado mold who would be more likely to cross ordinary taxpayers on matters requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. This not only includes tax increases but the increased likelihood of the Legislature placing hostile constitutional amendments on the ballot that would weaken Proposition 13 and/or Proposition 218 the Right to Vote on Taxes Act. With the support of “Maldonado Republicans” this situation is even more threatening because it would give the appearance of bipartisan support.

The situation would not be as threatening if the problem with moderate Republicans were offset by the election of more moderate Democrats who would be more supportive of ordinary taxpayers. However an analysis of historical voting patterns of moderate Democrats reveals that they are generally no more supportive of ordinary taxpayers than liberal Democrats. On occasion moderate Democrats will side with ordinary taxpayers but those situations typically occur when the legislative vote takes place near an upcoming election and the lawmaker represents a competitive district.

The election of more “moderate” Republicans would be a great win for the big business and public employee union interests that supported the May 2009 ballot measures that would have increased taxes another $16 billion. The motivation is greed. The businesses want to pay less by shifting the tax burden to others and the government worker unions just want more more and more.

When it comes to protecting taxpayers’ interests retaining the current system is more likely to produce a corps of lawmakers who will stalwartly defend taxpayers’ interests. The Prop. 14 free-for-all should be rejected.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.