By George Skelton
March 21, 2019
Gov. Gavin Newsom has drawn heavy flak for kissing off the voters on capital punishment. He’s also ignoring promises made to voters when they supported a gas tax and vehicle fee increase.
This could be a dangerous trend for the new governor. If a powerful elected official were perceived as two-faced with his word and dismissive of the voters’ desires, he’d be headed for the political cliff.
First, a revisit to the death penalty:
… he’s being legitimately criticized for snubbing the will of voters after they chose twice in recent years to retain capital punishment. They even voted in 2016 to expedite executions.
Moreover, Newsom previously promised to carry out capital punishment even if he opposed it.
Campaigning in 2016 for capital punishment repeal, the then-lieutenant governor told the Modesto Bee editorial board that if he were elected governor: “I would be accountable to the will of the voters. I would not [put] my personal opinions in the way of the public’s right to make a determination of where they want to take us as [it] relates to the death penalty.”
After Newsom did just the opposite last week, the Bee editorialized that “the governor’s lack of principle and failure to keep his promise is a slap in the face to survivors of heinous murders…. There is no excuse for governing by edict just because a leader doesn’t like what voters have said.”
… After declaring the moratorium, Newsom was questioned by reporters about breaking promises.
The will of the voters is also entrusted in me on the basis of my constitutional right to grant a reprieve” to murderers, he said.
But what about his promise?
… Now about the gas tax: It took about four years for former Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers to enact legislation raising $5.2 billion annually for road repairs. Much political blood was spilled.
The bill increased the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon and imposed a new annual vehicle fee, ranging from $25 to $175. Out of the pot, 65% goes for road and bridge repairs and 20% for transit. The rest is earmarked for better truck access around ports and for bicycle and pedestrian lanes.
Republican opponents charged that in the past, transportation money had been diverted for other projects. There was a small germ of truth in that. So Democrats sponsored a successful, separate ballot measure guaranteeing that all the new tax money would be safeguarded in a transportation lockbox.
…He’s trying to put out carrots and sticks” to prod housing, said Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, who fought hard to pass the gas tax legislation. “I don’t describe that as either a carrot or a stick. I’d describe that as a nonstarter. I don’t see any [legislator] jumping up and down for it. Most think it’s a lousy idea.”
...Newsom should reread Article II, Section 1 of the California Constitution. It begins: “All political power is inherent in the people.”