Opposing Putting Tax Increases on the California Ballot

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Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to combine tax increases with some spending reductions appears to be popular:

A Field Poll released this week showed that 61 percent of voters, including 56 percent of Republicans, want the state to have a special election on the budget. Fifty-eight percent of voters say they would favor extending the temporary taxes.

This poses a difficult question of principle for me. Normally, I am in favor of forcing tax increases to have a public vote. However, I don’t think that the public understands that public pensions are not part of the package that the governor is offering. In a little reported upon survey, Californians overwhelmingly support pension reform. From Bloomberg:

California voters support limits on public-employee pensions by a 3-to-1 margin, according to the Field Poll.

Seventy-three percent of those surveyed favor a cap on the amount of salary used to calculate pension benefits, compared with 20 percent opposed, according to the statewide survey by Field and the University of California, Berkeley, released today. Forty-two percent said the pensions are “too generous,” up from 32 percent two years ago.

Right now, the Democrats need a few Republican votes to extend for five more years the one-cent increase in the state sales tax, the ½ percent increase in vehicle license fees and the ¼ percent increase in personal income taxes that the state enacted in 2009. That’s quite a few extra taxes, that cost the average family $1000 per year.

I believe the Republicans should demand concessions on pensions before this goes to a vote of the public. But I would like to know what you think? What is the principled position here? Should Republicans use their limited power to push for pension reform as the price to be paid for putting tax increases on the ballot? Please take my poll.

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Comments 5

  1. The biggest tax increase in the package is seldom mentioned. The dependents income tax credit was cut by about 2/3.

    Previously, a family with two children received a state income tax credit of $638. Under the “temporary tax increase” package, that credit is slashed to $196 — an effective annual tax increase of $442. For a middle class family suffering in today’s economy, that $442 is a MAJOR tax increase.

    Moreover, this 2009 increase, along with the income tax rate increase, EXPIRED on 1/1/2011. Brown’s proposal is not an EXTENSION of the old income tax increase — it is a NEW “temporary” tax. Hence if voters REIMPOSE this expired tax, all the withholding will have to be done in the last half of the year, which will hammer modest income families the worst.

  2. To Jerry Brown ET AL:

    Let’s DO let the voters decide on taxes.

    Either way.

    The legislature should vote to put TWO measures on the ballot:

    1. Brown’s proposed tax increases
    2. Tax DECREASES for roughly the same amount.

    The prop with the biggest majority wins. If both props fail (simple majority, BTW), then taxes don’t change.

    Oh, what’s that you say? Irresponsible? Really?

    Letting the voters decide what THEY want is irresponsible? What happened to all that grand talk about allowing democracy to take its course?

    I think you’ll find that the GOP is willing to put both props before the voters. What about you progressives? Eh? EH?

  3. The Democrats say the people deserve the right to vote when it comes to tax increases, but certainly don’t want to give the public that same right to vote if that vote was for pension reforms.

    The Republicans would certainly favor letting the people vote on pension reform but not tax increases.

    The only principle each party shares is that they want what they want and they will spin the story however they can to make it sound like they have a principled argument.

  4. Using pension reform as an excuse for supporting higher taxes is a baaaaad deal for my side. Two reasons:

    1. Pension reform will come anyway. It simply HAS to. And soon. The options are disappearing on this. Furthermore, all the state labor unions just rushed into sweetheart labor agreements with the Governor which protect most of what they have — so immediate reform is unlikely.

    2. The pension reform the Democrats will let on the ballot will be FAR too timid and have little effect for at least a decade.

    The proposed deal is trading nothing for higher taxes — an excuse for RINO Republicans to sell out. They don’t see it that way, but that’s the way it is.

    My idea is better — let the public decide to raise taxes, lower taxes, or maintain our “normal” high tax levels.

    Other REAL reforms we should consider (but won’t – at least for now)? Privatize much of the prison system (60% savings), state libraries and, most important, education — using vouchers or tax credits.

  5. RINO’s have never seen a “Tax and Build” project they couldn’t support; be it prisons, libraries, highways or public schools, etc.

    Pass the tax, bond it out and let the next generation foot the bill. Operations! You mean you have to pay to keep the things going? Oh well, you know what they say,” Build it and the taxpayers will come.”

    This time around I think it would be better to gamble with the voters (and it is a gamble). The RINO’s are a time tested lot, they will sale the taxpayers down the river.

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