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Ducking Responsibility

June 03, 1989

In bargaining over a modest relaxation of the Gann limits on state spending, some Republican legislative leaders have come up with one of the most absurd proposals ever to surface in Sacramento. They want to pass a state constitutional amendment that would require a statewide vote on any plan to increase any state tax. Why not repeal representative government altogether and revert to the town meetings of Colonial days?

Government in California is virtually in paralysis now because of restrictive amendments and laws adopted through the initiative petition. The Gann limit, Proposition 4 approved by voters in 1979, is a case in point. California is desperate for additional funds to build and maintain an adequate highway system, but could not spend the money under the present Gann limit if raised through an increase in the gasoline tax. Even Gov. George Deukmejian appears to favor a relaxation in the Gann limit to allow more spending on highways and he is not exactly Mr. Big Spender.

The California business community, through the conservative California Taxpayers Assn., is supporting a proposed constitutional amendment to provide a general easing of the Gann limits by adopting a formula that provides a more realistic reflection of state economic growth and state needs. The business community recognizes that the entire state's economy will suffer if California does not provide the highways and other facilities the state needs to function.

Under Proposition 13, the Jarvis-Gann property tax measure of 1978, the Legislature can raise state taxes only by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. So it is virtually impossible to increase any levy now. Passage of the state budget also takes a two-thirds vote, meaning that a minority of 14 in the state Senate or 27 in the Assembly can thwart the will of the 120-member Legislature. The Founding Fathers, recognizing the dangers of the tyranny of a minority, provided for majority rule in the Constitution. They had seen that the nation could not survive under the impotent structure established by the Articles of Confederation.

California needs a Legislature that will legislate and a governor who will govern--not lawmakers who don't believe in making law.

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