Memo to Perata: Don’t Shoot the Messenger
The potential recall of State Senator Jeff Denham is a tragic example of what happens in Sacramento when one has the audacity to stand on principle. Denham realized that voting for a budget that started out $700 million in the hole was not a good example of fiscal stewardship. For this he and other balanced budget supporters were labeled "fiscal terrorists" by the tax and spend lobby. Ultimately Denham’s continued resolute support of the principle that we should live within our means saw him removed from powerful legislative committees (keeping him from serving his constituents) and made him the target of a recall.
Not surprisingly evidence has emerged that the puppet master funding and behind this shadowy endeavor is Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata. Perata is no stranger to controversy himself the target of an FBI investigation and who also was responsible for locking moderate members of his own caucus out of their offices earlier this year. Now he has turned his displeasure on Denham whose desire was simply to rein in out-of-control spending and fix our ever-present structural budget deficit.
During the long protracted stalemate in this year’s budget battle Senator Denham met the trials placed before him in a fiscally prudent but reasonable manner. He proposed the "Denham Amendment" to continue to provide vital services to low-income Californians while budget details were being sorted out. This was rejected by the majority Democrats on a party-line vote. This was just one example of Denham’s constant focus toward the needs of all Californians instead of merely using them as political pawns.
Three months after the signing of the budget there is incontrovertible proof that Denham’s faithfulness to protect the wallets of hard-working Californians has helped keep a bad situation from becoming a catastrophe. Governor Schwarzenegger’s Department of Finance released their preliminary budget report earlier this month where they projected a $14 billion deficit. Were it not for Denham — and other like-minded fiscal watchdogs — this deficit could be well over $15 billion.
The recall of Jeff Denham signals a dangerous escalation in the war against those who believe that government should spend no more money than it receives. Already those who would increase government involvement in our lives are proposing new taxes. A recall if successful would mean there would be one less legislator demonstrating fiscal sanity and make more likely a massive tax increase a watering down of Proposition 13 or other budgetary folly. This would be tragic and we hope that voters see that this recall is wholly illegitimate.
The good news is that even the media — which trends left of center in Denham’s district — sees this juvenile act of retribution as little more than a political stunt. And we hope some adult in the Capitol would remind Perata that you don’t punish someone for being right.
Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest taxpayer organization — which is dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and promoting taxpayers’ rights.