Government & Politics
2:40 pm
Mon November 19, 2012

Speaker Pérez Wary of Overplaying Democratic Supermajorities

Credit Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould / http://www.flickr.com/photos/for_tea_too/1957375742/

California Democrats have gained a supermajority in both state legislative houses for the first time in 70 years.  But as KPCC’s Julie Small reports, the Assembly Speaker says his party won’t exploit the power.

The two-thirds majority in the Assembly and Senate gives Democrats the power to raise taxes without Republican votes.  They’ll also be able to expedite bills and change legislative rules.  But Assembly Speaker John Perez downplays that new power.

“What I tell them is there’s nothing fundamentally different.  The job is the same as it’s always been: to focus on continuing to stabilize the economy, continue to make improvements in our budgetary situation, and focusing on business expansion so we can get everybody back to work in California.” 

And as for wielding the new power to raise taxes, Perez says that’s not on the Assembly’s agenda. The Speaker notes that – with the passage of Prop 30 – voters have already agreed to raise income and sales tax to prevent cuts to public schools, and they voted to close a corporate tax loophole.  Together those changes give lawmakers an estimated $7 billion in new revenue to help balance the budget.

The supermajority power in both state houses also enables Democrats to override gubernatorial vetoes.  Speaker Perez says he doesn’t expect to use it.

“The way to make things work is to actually try to work together, not to try to engage in divisive activities and pursue a confrontational approach.” 

The last time the legislature overrode a governor’s veto was in 1979, during Governor Jerry Brown’s first term.  At a news conference, Brown said he’s not worried.

“I have more experience with veto overrides than any other governor. (laughter) So I can handle the problem without too much difficulty.”

Brown believes the Democrats’ supermajority is more likely to ease the way for regulatory reform, a stable water supply, building high-speed rail, and changes to educational standards, evaluations and testing.   

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