California's Democratic legislators must feel like they just ran the table. Voters approved Proposition 30, the sales and income tax increase sought by Gov. Jerry Brown, as well as Proposition 39, a corporate tax hike that lawmakers had tried in vain to enact themselves. In addition, Democrats appear to have picked up enough seats for a two-thirds majority in both chambers of the Legislature, enough to raise taxes without the support of a single Grover Norquist disciple on the other side of the aisle.
But before lawmakers start making plans to spend their bounty, they need to consider what voters expect in return for backing Proposition 30: an end to the fiscal shenanigans that have sent the state careening from one budget crisis to another.
It's a rare thing for Californians to vote for a statewide tax increase; over the last decade, they've defeated 10 and approved only one, a 1% surtax on million-dollar incomes to finance mental health programs. To their credit, they recognized in Proposition 30 the chance to stop the budgetary bloodletting that had reduced per-pupil funding to 47th in the nation, jacked up tuition at public colleges and universities, frayed the state's safety net, closed parks, slowed the state courts and limited access to popular community college classes. And in Proposition 39, they corrected a misguided tax policy lawmakers adopted in 2009 that encouraged multistate businesses to hire and invest outside of California.