Ma comment raises eyebrows

Interminable Endless debate, grandstanding and hot rhetoric are traditional faire of end-of-session days at the Capitol.

Thankfully, most of the hot air evaporates into thin air, forgotten the moment the words leave their authors’ mouths.

One comment, however, had a little more staying power than most, courtesy of Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, at a news conference announcing a bipartisan agreement to eliminate a $1 billion tax loophole for out-of-state corporations.

It had to do with the ever-shifting recounting by legislators of how the bill to carve out the tax breaks for out-of-state corporations came to be approved in the dead of night at the end of the 2009 legislative session.

It was an agreement hammered out in tough negotiations that resulted in passage of the 2009 tax hikes, which required six Republican votes — three in each chamber.

Just last week, Gov. Jerry Brown off-handedly criticized legislators for approving the loophole to out-of-state corporations without understanding the full implications. But Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, begged to differ, saying he understood perfectly well that he was sending $1 billion out of the state.

It was just that Republicans “had a gun to our heads” as Democrats sought desperately to pass the tax hike Steinberg said.

Ma had an entirely different spin in attempting to explain legislators’ acquiescence to the deal.

The bill was “drafted incorrectly,” she said with a stunning finality. Rather than requiring all corporations to pay taxes based on their sales under a “mandatory single sales factor,” Ma said, legislators simply made a mistake in making tax calculations elective for the out-of-state corporations.

When asked by a member of the Capitol press corps if she was saying she didn’t know what she was voting for, Brown came to the rescue. Sort of.

“I want to step in here,” Brown interjected. “Trying to discern the motives of those legislator who created this is a fool’s errand because they all have a different story.

“I have my own story, my own thoughts, but it’s speculative. … If anybody else can figure out why they did it or if they understood it and what they meant by saying they understood it and what kind of understanding they brought to bear on it,” go ahead and try.

Steven Harmon

  • Rick K.

    This is a priceless anecdote about Sacramento and why our state government is such a mess. Our “lawmakers” don’t know the first thing about what they’re voting on, as Assemblywoman Ma so inelegantly admitted. Most legislators are nothing more than puppets of the special interests that helped them win their first primary elections. Most of our “veteran” legislators in the Legislature and Congress are incompetent political hacks who keep getting re-elected mostly because of name recognition sustained by campaign donations from those special interests. Most of them need to be purged from public office into oblivion. Ma has already proven herself an airhead time and again. She’s the “water girl” for the billboard industry, to name one example. A few years ago Ma persuaded the Assembly to pass her bill to convert thousands of billboards into electronic message boards based on her flimsy rationale that the billboard companies might voluntarily place emergency information on them during emergencies. Fortunately, her bill was stopped in the Senate only after the S.F. Chronicle led a campaign against it. Let’s hope that her political career ends once she is “termed out” of the Assembly.

  • Elwood

    What Rick K. said, although I’m not sure Ma is any worse than the rest of those losers.

    They should all be ridden out of Sacto. on a rail and forced to find gainful employment commensurate with their qualifications, such as pumping out septic tanks.