With the party’s supermajority in both houses, pushing quickly for new taxes or overreaching on other issues could lead to a voter backlash.

By Michael J. Mishak, Los Angeles Times
November 24, 2012, 8:07 p.m.

SACRAMENTO — Having won a coveted two-thirds supermajority in the Legislature for the first time in more than a century, California Democrats now face the temptations of one-party government — and the perils that come with it.

The party’s liberal allies are urging legislative leaders to aggressively exercise their newfound powers, allowing them to sidestep Republicans on tax votes and in placing measures on the statewide ballot.

Among the proposals are new levies on oil companies, overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and overhauling Proposition 13, the landmark property-tax initiative.

“This is a huge opportunity,” said Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers. “We shouldn’t be timid about our political agenda.”

Political experts, however, said that Democrats could risk a backlash if they overreach, particularly on fiscal matters.

Party leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown persuaded Californians to approve billions of dollars in new taxes on the November ballot — the first statewide tax increase since 2004 — by arguing that the new money would put the state’s finances back on track.

“When Santa brings you everything you want for Christmas, to start making your wish list for next year on Dec. 26 looks bad,” said Thad Kousser, a UC San Diego political scientist.

State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) tested that theory this month when he floated legislation to place a measure on the 2014 ballot to triple the state’s vehicle license fee.

The lawmaker said his proposal, which would have raised money for roads and public transit projects, prompted hundreds of negative comments from constituents — and an admonishment from Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

Now chastened, Lieu said Democrats should restrain themselves.

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