SFGate – California Democrats appear to have picked up a supermajority in both houses of the state Legislature Tuesday night, a surprise outcome that gives the party the ability to unilaterally raise taxes and leaves Republicans essentially irrelevant in Sacramento.
Democrats were long expected to gain a two-thirds advantage in the Senate, but Assembly Speaker John Pérez had downplayed expectations that the party could win a supermajority in the lower house. The party’s apparent capture of 54 seats in the 80-member Assembly and 27 in the 40-member Senate would mark the first time in nearly 80 years that one party controlled two-thirds of both houses, according to Senate President pro tem Darrell Steinberg.
This will be an interesting test case to see what will be the results of unilateral and uncompromised Democrat policies.
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown quickly cautioned that he already has pledged to take any further tax hikes to voters, as he did with the temporary tax increases that voters approved on Tuesday. And Democrat leaders in both the Senate and Assembly downplayed the idea that they would seek to further ratchet up tax rates.
“It’s time to start anew and to live within our means but at the same time invest in the cornerstone of our future and of our economy, and that’s education,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said in a telephone interview.
He later told reporters that he favors “tax reform” to broaden California’s tax base without further raising tax rates.
“I certainly don’t mean to suggest to my colleagues that the first thing we do is go out and raise more taxes,” Steinberg said.
Tax increases approved by voters on Tuesday can be used to avoid deeper cuts to social programs and restore some health care programs for the poor that had been curtailed, he said.
Yet Democrats will inevitably face increased pressure from public employee unions, teacher unions and other core constituencies now that they are on the verge of gaining total control of the Legislature as well as the governor’s office, said San Jose State University political science professor Larry Gerston.