Assembly GOP Leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley is facing renewed pressure from party activists to resign his leadership post after he and six other Republican Assembly members helped Democrats pass a 10-year extension to the state’s cap-and-trade system.

I don’t begrudge Mayes for trying to do something about climate change, but he should be booted as his party’s Assembly leader for political foolishness alone. The key role of the party leader is to get more Republicans elected to the Assembly, which is important these days, given that Democrats hold supermajorities in both houses.

A couple of legislative wins would give the party something it now lacks: the power to stop tax increases, which require a two-thirds vote. Those victories now are more elusive — a point made by Orange County Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker in a letter this week to Mayes. Whitaker pointed to the predicament the party now finds itself in with regard to the seat held by Democratic Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva of Fullerton.

Republican support for the legislation let Quirk-Silva vote no “and issue a press release standing up for the economic interests of the voters in her district,” Whitaker wrote in a letter calling for Mayes to step aside. “You gave an incumbent Democrat in a swing seat you are supposed to be targeting a free pass to act more Republican than our leadership.” San Diego County GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric echoed those thoughts in a separate letter.

If the cap-and-trade legislation had really been in peril, do you think Quirk-Silva would have bucked the Democratic majority? This was a freebie “no” vote that allows her to portray herself as a champion of the taxpayer, thus protecting herself against those hit mailers that are sure to come election time.

Quirk-Silva’s statement was a jumble of contradictions. “This is not the time to raise taxes on the working people, nor is it the time to force more regulations on our economy,” she said, in an appeal to the district’s many conservative voters.

But she also complained that the cap-and-trade bill “doesn’t go far enough to protect citizens of Orange County from pollution,” which seems to echo liberal activists who wanted a tougher bill. Which is it? Does the legislation go too far in imposing taxes and regulations, or is it too modest in its effort to deal with pollution?

Then the assemblywoman rightly said that reducing carbon emissions is “a worthwhile and important endeavor,” but added a non sequitur. “Nonetheless, Orange County has been a donor county for too long. … We write the checks, but don’t receive the dividends.” Apparently, she believes that California needs to do more to reduce its carbon footprint, but only if Orange County residents get a larger slice of any pork-barrel spending.

I can’t blame Quirk-Silva for peddling inconsistent gibberish. She’s a politician, so why not have it both ways if you can get away with it? The real blame lies with Mayes and his six Republican colleagues who voted with the Democrats here.

Bad political maneuvering was a godsend not just for Quirk-Silva, but also for embattled state Sen. Josh Newman, the Fullerton Democrat who is the target of a recall for his vote in favor of a recent increase in the gas tax and vehicle license fee. It’s hard for Republicans to muster voter outrage at something that will cost Californians 12 cents a gallon when so many of their legislators voted for a program estimated to cost 63 cents a gallon within four years.

That’s not Mayes’ only area of political numbskullery. Gov. Jerry Brown told Republicans they could vote for cap and trade or face something worse — i.e., giving state officials additional powers to impose their edicts on businesses. Mayes bought into this false choice. In a column for the Sacramento Bee, he wrote that “this plan will reduce regulation, lower costs, cut taxes, protect jobs and provide a model for other states.”

When asked to choose between death by firing squad or by lethal injection, smart people shift the discussion to none of the above. Mayes seems unaware that there are other ways to tackle climate change without strangling the state’s economy. And this plan isn’t a victory for less regulation. The law gives the California Air Resources Board increased authority to issue edicts.

Cap and trade imposes an artificial cap on carbon emissions, and then reduces that cap every year, thus forcing businesses to buy costly “allowances” as they invest in cleaner technologies. It’s not really a market system, but a means to raise revenue to help the governor fund his myriad spending priorities.

Why didn’t Mayes, say, secure serious limits on CARB, or tough spending limits on the bullet train? Why didn’t he propose a revenue-neutral carbon tax, which discourages emissions without harming the economy? It’s because of his political foolishness. As a result, Whitaker and Krvaric are right that he needs to go.

Image by matthi

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