The California gas tax and the outrageous tactics to keep it

A few weeks ago this column addressed the issue of polling and how it can be manipulated and, even when it is not manipulated, how wrong it can be.  Still, candidates, consultants and the media do a lot of polling to test the viability of whatever it is they support or oppose.

Sen. Josh Newman’s recall election was a bitter fight. While polling suggested he was in trouble, those supporting the recall were well aware that polls can be wrong. But even recall proponents were surprised that the recall would prevail by a 59-41 percent margin. That wasn’t just a loss for Newman. It was a trouncing.

This past week, in his political swan song, Newman vented against the recall effort on the floor of Senate.  Incredibly, Newman stated, “I can’t imagine wanting to win so badly that I would ever do, in the pursuit of partisan advantage, what has been done here.”  In light of how Democrats skewed the political process during the recall effort, Newman’s complaint is laughable. Let’s review.

Not once, but twice, Democrats jammed through new laws changing the recall process specifically for the purpose of throwing Newman a political lifeline. These were enacted as so-called “trailer bills,” last-minute, supposedly budget-related bills that are passed without any public hearings. These were designed to delay what otherwise would have been a special election for the recall last November or December, a ploy that succeeded in delaying the issue to June. Because the purpose of the 100-year-old right to recall is to get a rapid resolution of whether a politician should continue in office, the claim that the new laws were “improving” the process was ridiculous.

Then, adding insult to injury, the ostensibly neutral Fair Political Practices Commission adopted a new rule allowing Newman unlimited campaign contributions from his fellow Democratic senators. This despite the fact that they denied this right to a Republican senator just a few short years ago.

For Newman to upbraid Republicans on the floor of the California Senate for failing to defend him suggests that he has totally forgotten the Banana Republic tactics that were deployed to save his political career. It also demonstrates how disconnected he was from his constituents, who really were angry over his vote to ensure that California had the highest gas and car taxes in the nation. His political tone deafness was further revealed by more anti-taxpayer votes for single-payer healthcare, a recording tax to fund housing and a vote for cap-and-trade.

But here is a warning to the proponents of the November initiative to roll back the gas and car tax increases that were jammed through without voter approval: If you think the tactics used by progressives in their failed effort to save Newman were bad, be prepared to see the same sort of skullduggery in the upcoming fight in November. One-party power in California gives those in power almost unlimited ability to alter rules, raise money and use public resources to defeat the effort.

On the other hand, Third World tactics like those seen in Venezuela might amplify voter disgust. Even left-of-center media outlets were critical of Democrats when they jammed through legislation designed to boost one specific candidate.

Despite whatever abuses in the political process the opponents of the gas and car tax rollback might deploy, it may make little difference. As long as voters are given a voice on this $52 billion tax hike, they could very well register their displeasure with both the tax and the tactics used to preserve it. In other words, Californians will be able to send two resounding messages with a single vote.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.