Extra resources for students of State and Local Government 180, an upper-division GE class in the Government Department at Sacramento State University
Monday, October 17, 2011
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin: Reflection by State Senate Minority Leader
A year in the life of minority leader
Neil Nisperos, Staff Writer
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Created: 10/16/2011 08:53:22 PM PDT
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
The partisan divide in Sacramento has become ever harder to bridge over the past few years. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, has seen peaks and valleys in this discord.
The summer's epic budget struggle between leaders of the Democrats and Republicans showcased the gridlock that has engulfed the Capitol. But the recent deal Dutton helped broker over the disputed sales tax for online retailers provided a rare bipartisan compromise.
Dutton spoke last week to the editorial boards of the Daily Bulletin and The Sun about the two contentious policy matters and how they provided the high and low points of his year as Senate minority leader.
Compromise among lawmakers, Amazon.com and the state's brick-and-mortar retailers will delay online tax collections until at least September 2012. That is to give Amazon and other retailers time to lobby Congress for national rules governing online sales taxes.
"I told (Gov. Jerry Brown) on the final night, right now you actually have true bipartisanship starting to develop on the floor, at least in the Senate," Dutton recalled. "We're willing to work together. You need to embrace that and encourage it, not discourage it."
California this year joined a growing wave of states that tried to boost tax collections by expanding the definition of "physical presence" in the state to include marketing affiliates who steer online customers to a retail site, and sister companies such as Amazon's Silicon Valley subsidiary that developed the Kindle electronic book reader.
Internet retailers, however, called the move illegal. Amazon cut ties to California affiliates and spent more than $5 million to gather signatures for a 2012 ballot referendum to repeal the law. Brown signed the original bill in June as part of the state budget package.
Dutton said he had met with big-box retailers who were upset over the referendum effort.
"I made it very clear that I happen to know most big-box retailers got a pretty sweet deal when they went to put their facilities in various cities around the state because of those (redevelopment agencies), so don't come crying to me about some unfair advantage that Amazon or eBay has because they're getting it on the tail end and you guys got it up front. So why don't we try to work this thing out?"
Under the approved deal, Amazon agreed to resume working with its affiliates.
The final budget bill, on the other hand, earned no votes from Senate Republicans, Dutton said.
"On that last go-round, the governor didn't meet with Republicans at all," Dutton said. "He strictly met with Democrats to determine what the spending priorities would be and what the triggers would be. And so at that point, most if not all of my caucus, including myself, said, if you're not going to allow me to be part of the decision-making process on what's going to get cut and what's going to be the trigger when your revenue numbers don't materialize, then I've got no reason to support the budget."
Lawmakers appeared close to an agreement in March toward a tax-extension ballot vote in June. Talks ended after Brown said GOP leaders released a list of 53 demands they were seeking in exchange for their support for a special election.
The list, Brown said, included items not related to the state budget debate and corporate tax breaks that would cost the state billions annually.
Dutton said the list was submitted because Republicans wanted to be on the same page with Brown on the reforms being asked for.
"In order for me to sit down and actually negotiate with the governor, I had to first determine where exactly was my starting point, because I didn't know and he said he didn't know," Dutton said. "Even though I thought the governor probably was sincere, his senior staff definitely was not, and that's where I think the problems started developing."