SACRAMENTO -- Democrats appear to have seized a super majority in both legislative chambers, which would give them the ability to approve taxes without Republican support.
Under the radar, with all the attention focused on Proposition 30, California voters ushered in a new era in state politics not seen in nearly eight decades: Now, for the first time since 1933, the ruling party would have two-thirds majorities in both chambers and free rein in a startling transformation that neuters Republicans in Sacramento to a new level of irrelevancy.
Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, announced early Wednesday morning that he is confident Democrats have captured the two extra seats they needed to secure 54 seats, a two-thirds majority.
And Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has also said he is confident Democrats will hold a two-thirds majority, though with two Democrats leaving for Congress, they will have to hold special elections early next year to maintain it.
"A working two-thirds majority will allow the Senate to move forward with balanced solutions to spur economic growth and improve our system of governance," said Steinberg, D-Sacramento. "At the same time, this newfound capability means the Democratic majority will be held accountable for those decisions. We intend to exercise leadership with humility."
In a news conference Wednesday, Brown reiterated his pledge to not sign taxes without a vote of the people, setting up a potential clash with legislative Democrats who may be eager to fill more funding holes.
But he said "we're not into the threat game here," and that he wasn't "drawing lines in the sand" with veto threats.
Brown, who was governor for two terms in the late 1970s and early '80s, called his relationship with the Legislature "better than it ever has been in my 10 years" as governor.
With almost 54 percent of the vote, Brown refused to call the victory of Proposition 30 a mandate, but it "vindicated my confidence that the people of California can make very sound judgments." Still, he said, he didn't want to "overread" the message of voters.
"But given the massive opposition and skepticism about whether or not state government can handle any more money, I see this as a vote of confidence, with some reservations," he said. "The real lesson is voters have trusted their elected representatives, and maybe me to some extent, and we've got to meet that trust. We've got to make sure over the next several years that we pay our bills, invest in the right programs but we don't go out on any spending binges."
Brown spoke of a busy agenda for next year that included regulatory reform, water reform, getting the high-speed rail project off the ground, education reform and the budget.
Before the election, most observers expected Democrats to take a two-thirds majority in the Senate but considered an Assembly super majority to be a long shot at best.
Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Visalia, conceded the loss, though she warned Democrats against overreaching.
"The voters have spoken, and I respect the voice of the people," Conway said. "By no means should the majority party interpret these results as a mandate. Millions of Californians opposed the governor's tax hikes and shared our view that job creation is the best revenue generator for the state.
"Republicans will hold the majority party accountable for delivering their promise to voters that these tax hikes will go to our classrooms and not big government."