Low numbers stymie GOP in state Legislature
Were Republicans who went along with Democrats and voted for the current state budget traitors who sold out the conservative cause, saddling the state with debt and raising all of our taxes?
Or were they pragmatists who capitalized on the GOP’s one chance to be effective in the Democrat-dominated Legislature, passed a decent budget, and brought home the bacon to their districts to boot?
That’s a key issue dividing the Republican candidates seeking to represent Nevada County in the state Legislature.
One thing they all agree on: Republicans don’t have much clout in Sacramento.
Democrats can pretty much ignore Republicans for most votes that require a simple majority, because Democrats have a 50-to-30 majority in the Assembly and a 27-to-13 lead in the Senate.
But when a two-thirds vote is required, such as passing the all-important state budget, Democrats start wooing their GOP counterparts. Democrats need one Senate Republican to cross over and four Assembly Republicans to take their side.
“(Republicans’) numbers are so low, it’s really only in the budget area where they have clout,” said Ken DeBow, a government professor at California State University, Sacramento.
This summer, Republicans held out six weeks for concessions before a handful of them broke ranks with the GOP and ended the budget stalemate.
One of four Assemblymen to side with Democrats was Dick Dickerson of Redding, who’s now facing Sam Aanestad of Grass Valley in a race for the state Senate.
Dickerson claims that to punish him, Republican legislators got the 4th Senate District redrawn to include western Nevada County so Aanestad could run against him.
He defends his choice to support the budget.
“The benefits we got for rural California were extensive,” Dickerson said, citing such things as $500,000 each for sheriff’s departments in 37 rural counties. “If you are a voter who wants some of your tax dollars to come back … you should want a legislator who’s capable of making that happen.”
Aanestad said he voted for budgets when the state had a funding surplus, but said the current budget raised the sales tax and put the state $4 billion in debt.
“The amount of money that (Dickerson) brought into his district doesn’t come close to the amount of money that will go out of his district in increased sales tax,” Aanestad said. Had they stuck together, Republicans could have prevented the sales tax increase, he thinks.
Two Chico Republicans, Rick Keene and Dan Ostrander, seek the 3rd Assembly District seat Aanestad is vacating. Neither is currently in the Legislature.
Keene says Republicans need to stick together; Ostrander says he would have broken ranks and voted for the current budget.
“As I understand the budget, that was the best budget that could be had by the Republicans to get something for rural counties,” Ostrander said.
Keene doesn’t think Dickerson’s district will come out ahead, partly because now the state has a deficit budget and it will cut money to counties.
“They’re going to want to balance it on the backs of local government,” Keene said.
DeBow predicts Republicans will remain the underdogs in the state Legislature for another decade, thanks to a status quo redistricting plan that’s been nicknamed an incumbent protection plan.
“I think that morale among Republicans in the Legislature is pretty low,” DeBow said. “I think it’s the sense of futility.”
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