Jerry Brown’s Tax Pledge Takes Heat from Fellow Democrat

By Matt Loffman

May 4, 2010 12:35pm

ABC News’ Teddy Davis reports: Jerry Brown's (D) bid to return to the California governor's office is premised, in part, on the notion that he has "the preparation and the knowledge and the know-how" to handle California's Legislature. But after talking to California Assembly Speaker John Perez (D) in Washington on Monday, it’s clear that Brown has some work to do with a fellow Democrat. When I asked Perez what he thought of Brown’s pledge not to support higher taxes unless they were approved by the voters, Perez unloaded. “It’s stupid,” said Perez. “It’s a misguided approach. When you are trying to build consensus, you should not erect additional barriers. The two-thirds super majority (required by the California constitution) to raise taxes should be enough.” “You need the flexibility to implement (tax increases) when necessary,” said Perez. (The Brown camp thinks the tax pledge, which the Attorney General made in his announcement video, was essential given where voters are on the issue). Beyond the policy disagreement on the issue of taxes, Perez is worried that Brown will not be able to compete financially with billionaire Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO who is Brown’s likely Republican opponent. Perez, a long-time political director for the United Food and Commercial Workers (U.F.C.W.), was in the nation’s capital for meetings at the White House, Capitol Hill, and the Department of Health and Human Services. He was discussing how to implement federal health care reform legislation. He was also looking for help to plug California’s multi-billion dollar budget deficit. Perez’s election won national notice because he is the state’s first openly gay Speaker of the California State Assembly, a powerful post which he could hold for the next four to five years. When asked about Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure which outlawed gay marriage in the state, Perez said that he is hoping that it gets overturned in federal court. If necessary, Perez said that he would support going to the voters again on the issue. He emphasized, however, that the right year to do that will be in 2012, not 2010 as some gay rights activists preferred. When it comes to fixing the state’s perennial budget deficits, Perez says that structural reform is needed. In particular, he would like the state’s tax code rewritten so that revenue is not so heavily dependent on state income taxes from  upper-income earners. He also wants to end California’s two-thirds requirement to approve a state budget.  He would not, however, touch the two-thirds requirement to approve higher taxes. As for his own political future, Perez said that he is not interested in running for Mayor of Los Angeles in 2013 when his cousin, Antonio Villaraigosa, a former California Assembly Speaker, will be termed out. Perez said that he sees himself as a legislator, not an executive, and could see himself one day running for Congress if Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., were to retire. ABC News’ Matt Loffman contributed to this report.

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