I’m having a lot of fun of the schadenfreude variety watching the California budget mess head down to the wire. Train wrecks are lots of fun as long as it’s not you in the train. My sister and her husband do live in California, however, and he does work for the state, so I may have to send them a CARE package any day now.
The LA Times has a good story here (click!) on the latest.
What’s interesting, even at this late date, is the absolute refusal of Republicans to consider any tax hike. Admittedly, California already has high taxes in some ways — LA County is near 10 percent in sales tax now — but in other ways the historical antipathy towards taxes of any sort, a nationwide trend but really big in California, is now coming back to bite them.
People getting together for their tea parties again this Saturday may want to take note: Blanket opposition to taxes can leave you with an unmanagable fiscal mess. If we want our society to function, we have to have public services and we have to pay for them. We need to tax ourselves because nobody else is going to pay for these things.
In California a lot of it started with Proposition 13, back in the 1980s, which limited the ability of local jurisdictions to raise property taxes by essentially freezing them on a property until the property sold. The hope was to keep seniors from losing homes they’d bought decades before just because property values went up but their income didn’t, but without a way to keep all property taxes fair this left California with the odd situation of identical properties next door to each other paying wildly different taxes for the same exact services.
That was the first blow. Entities that needed money they would have, in the past, raised through property taxes then hadto go to the state for funds.
Since then Californians had passed numerous referendums that require specific projects, set out a crazy budget approval process that requries a 2/3 majority for approval of any tax hike, and generally made it impossible to raise money even as Californians grew stinking rich on inflated property values.
It was, at best, a shaky proposition. Columnist George Skelton discusses the basic fixes that California needs to undertake to get out of this mess — essentially blowing the entire government up and starting over. His column is here (click!).
The lesson for all of us in Utah, as we enjoy the specticle, should be clear: Be careful about tax cuts. They’re great fun, every politician loves them, but we need to get this country back to a place where we know what sort of government we’re buying and what it’s going to cost us.
Tea Parties are in precisely the wrong direction — the correctly note that President Obama is spending a lot of money we don’t have now, but neglect to point out that President Bush, and Reagan, and Bush the First, all spent trillions that they didn’t have either. Where were the protestors then?
Off spending the tax cuts that were supposed to balance the budget, that’s where.