State Sen. Josh Newman, who has been in office less than six months, is the target of a credible and well organized recall election. The recall effort was instigated by reform and taxpayer interests over the passage of Senate Bill 1 which imposes a permanent $5.2 billion annual tax on gasoline and vehicle registration. That tax increase, never approved by voters, has generated vocal public criticism.
But why Josh Newman? Shouldn’t all legislators who cast a yes vote for this regressive tax on California’s middle class be held accountable? That is arguably true and there may be more recall efforts launched in the near future.
Nonetheless, there are several legitimate reasons why Sen. Newman deserves to be at the top of the list.
Opponents of the recall have suggested that a recall is only justified in cases of gross malfeasance or corruption. While those are certainly good reasons to target a legislator in the middle of a term, they are not exclusive reasons. It wasn’t that long ago when Gov. Gray Davis’ attempt to increase the car tax - one of the very taxes at issue here - led to his successful recall. His opponent, Arnold Schwarzenegger, actually dropped a car from a crane in an illustration of how unpopular the car tax hike was. In short, some actions justify a severe political response.
Second, it is readily apparent that Josh Newman is a bad fit for the Senate district he represents. Yes, he was duly elected, but only by the slimmest of margins. This is a district that should have been relatively easy win for a fiscal conservative. However, as we know from the statewide vote, many voters expressed strong negative feelings for the Republican at the top of the ticket - Donald Trump - and even those Republicans and independents who weren’t thrilled with Hillary Clinton, many still couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Trump. But Donald Trump won’t be on the ballot in a recall election which vastly increases the chances for success.
Third, the 29th Senate District has a large contingent of middle-class voters. Much different from the West Side of Los Angeles or San Francisco, a lot voters in the 29th District have seen their housing costs and other cost of living items increase without a matching increase in their incomes. For them, a huge increase in the gas tax and vehicle registration tax hits the family budget hard. Coastal elites don’t care how much the cost of gas is - most don’t even bother looking at the price - but working Californians do. A recall election will make Newman explain to the voters of his district why he voted against their interests.
Fourth, in addition to sending a message to other tax-happy legislators about the consequences of big middle-class tax hikes, replacing a progressive with a fiscally responsible individual would deprive Democrats of the two-thirds super majority they need to impose even more tax hikes without voter approval. The California Taxpayers Foundation has calculated that, in the first four months of the new legislative session, progressives have proposed $155 billion in new taxes. Depriving Democrats of the two-thirds super majority they need to pass tax hikes is more than a legitimate policy objective - it is critical for saving the state from liberal lunacy.
Fifth, the anger among California voters has not subsided from the day Senate Bill 1 was jammed through the legislature. If anything, the more citizens learn about this attack on their pocketbooks, the more incensed they get. Grassroots taxpayer groups have legions of members who are angry drivers reaching for their pitchforks and torches. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association alone has several thousand active members in Senate District 29 and they haven’t been shy about wanting something done and done now.
It would have been preferable for the Legislature as body, and Sen. Newman in particular, to have not imposed a punishing tax hike on California drivers. But they did, so they have only themselves to blame for political retaliation.
Jon Coupal is the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.