Will Redistricting Save California?

| Sat Jun. 4, 2011 12:12 PM EDT

This is a totally inside baseball post for fellow Californians who know more about what's going on in Sacramento than I do. As background for everyone else, California has an enormous hole in its budget and Gov. Jerry Brown wants to plug that hole with a combination of spending cuts and tax extensions. However, you need a two-thirds vote in the legislature to raise taxes, and Democrats are a couple of votes short in both the Senate and the Assembly. Negotiations have been ongoing with the tiny handful of Republicans who are at least willing to talk, but they've gone nowhere.

So, anyway, it all looks hopeless. But maybe not! I was chatting with a friend on Memorial Day who deals with lots of Sacramento lobbyist types, and he said those lobbyists were unanimously reporting that there was no problem. A deal would be made and revenue would be raised. I was astonished. Sure, that might be true, but it sure doesn't look that way right now. What makes these lobbyists so confident?

Answer: redistricting. In a few days a commission will announce California's new legislative districts based on the 2010 census, and some number of legislators are going to find themselves without a home and without a political future. Some of them will be Republicans, and those Republicans will be willing to cut a deal with Brown because they don't have to worry about the wrath of the voters anymore.

Hmmm. Really? It seems to me the same thing could be said about legislators who are being booted out in 2012 due to term limits, but that doesn't seem to have helped the process along. Part of the problem is that only a handful of Republicans are being termed out, and all but three or four of them are ultraconservatives who aren't going to compromise on taxes regardless of their future. I'd be surprised if redistricting ended up impacting more than two or three non-wingnut Republicans either.

But what do I know? So I put it to my California readers who follow state politics closely: are my friend's lobbyists super plugged in and know things the rest of us don't? Or are they just telling their bosses what they want to hear? Is redistricting Jerry Brown's secret hope for a deal with Republicans to extend the tax hikes that were put in place a couple of years ago? Or is this just whistling into the wind?

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