Lyles: Tax increase should be rejected
By Dick Lyles
Californians should decisively reject Governor Brown’s November ballot proposal to raise taxes for three simple reasons.
First, the state’s problem is not insufficient revenues; it is out-of-control, institutionalized spending.
Second, is that the governor hasn’t earned the right to ask for an increase in taxes — he hasn’t come close to making the kind of management decisions needed to solve the state’s fiscal woes.
Third, the tax increases are nothing more than a subsidy to state employee unions which we, the taxpayers, cannot afford.
Declining revenue is not the problem. The facts speak for themselves. State revenues have increased dramatically during the past several fiscal years, growing from $82 billion in fiscal year 2008-2009 to $88 billion this fiscal year. While spending has increased, services have been slashed during this same time frame. Although services have been cut, state payroll dollars to provide the lower levels of service have increased. Beneficiaries receive less, private service providers receive less, fewer people receive services, but state payroll continues to increase. The annual deficit, which the governor and the legislature are required by law to not allow, is in the neighborhood of 16 to 20 percent or $16 billion to $20 billion, depending upon whose numbers you want to believe. This is preposterous!
As for the second reason, all we need do is look at the success achieved during the past two years in Wisconsin. The state’s deficit went from more than $3 billion to nothing with an aggressive plan that included re-structuring payrolls and pensions along with modest tax increases. The modest tax increases were accepted by the voters because of the massive re-structuring of the state, and because the state freed itself from control of the unions.
The only legitimate way Governor Brown can request tax increases is by re-structuring in a way that will avoid having another similar crisis in a year or two. State payroll needs to be brought under control. Brown’s feeble effort in this regard is to include in the plan a statement saying he will ask the unions for a 5 percent across-the-board cut. This won’t solve the structural problems that are built into the system. Because Brown is a pawn of the unions, even this won’t happen. Passing Brown’s tax increase would be like using a Band-Aid to heal an appendicitis wound — his solution doesn’t solve the problem for the short term, let alone come anywhere near solving it for the long term.
These first two reasons lead to the third. The cities of San Diego and San Jose, along with Wisconsin, took bold steps to undo the government salary and pension benefit excesses handed down from past politicians. It is way past time for California to do the same. They in effect shed the strangle hold of the labor unions. Governor Brown’s proposed tax hike is a windfall for state employees and their unions, financed by the hard work of Californians who will carry the burden of the increase.
History may not repeat itself perfectly, but it sure does rhyme. Unions in effect destroyed the auto industry in Detroit and led Michigan to ruin. They were destroying Wisconsin and are destroying neighboring Illinois and a number of nearby states. They are destroying California by creating a protected membership that now lives as the upper crust of the welfare system. Most members do less and get paid more each year. Until that cycle is turned around, tax increases mean nothing and won’t solve the problem.
Lyles, a Poway resident, is an author and film producer. Reach him at email@example.com.
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