Editorial: Voters deserve to weigh in on tax extension

Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to help balance the state budget by extending a package of two-year, temporary tax increases for five more years is going to be a tough sell at the ballot box.

Still, we believe that voters should have the opportunity to choose their medicine: Pay more in taxes, or put up with even deeper cuts to education, social service programs, parks, libraries and the like.

Thanks to an ugly display of partisan politics, though, we may not have the opportunity to vote.

To qualify the tax measure for a special June election, the governor needs five Republicans — two in the Assembly and three in the Senate — to OK the idea.

That doesn’t mean the Republicans have to support the tax; they just have to be amenable to allowing their constituents to vote on the measure.

And there’s the rub: Nearly every Republican in the state Legislature has signed a “no new tax” pledge at the behest of Grover Norquist, the founder of Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist already has notified California Republican lawmakers that it would be a violation of the pledge to vote to put the tax proposal on the ballot.

Don’t get us started on how reprehensible it is for an East Coast ideologue to use his bully pulpit to dictate whether Californians should or should not be allowed to vote on this. We won’t waste our breath. Instead, we appeal to

California’s Republican lawmakers, particularly local legislators Sen. Sam Blakeslee and Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, to ignore such a heavy-handed attempt to intimidate.

Blakeslee already showed his strength in refusing to sign the no-tax pledge.

Achadjian did sign the pledge, but this is an opportunity for him to demonstrate to voters that he remains the moderate, thoughtful, independent politician they first sent to the county Board of Supervisors.

Aside from the cost of a special election, we don’t see a downside to putting this to a vote.

A majority of Californians appears to agree with us; according to a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, 67 percent of state residents believe the tax extensions should be put to a vote of the people.

Why, then, would any lawmaker want to deny voters the opportunity?

And please, don’t refer to past elections in which voters turned down tax increases. There is new leadership in Sacramento, and voters — who, after all, will have to live with the consequences — deserve the right to weigh in on this latest plan.

It’s time to demand that our legislators end their partisan stubbornness and gamesmanship by allowing the governor to put his proposal to the voters.