California's Silent Big Spenders

Political class refuses to explain why the state requires hysterical spending growth

Say this much for the French: At least they have the couilles to come right out and argue why government needs to be bigger and more intrusive. I may not agree that the state should enforce "solidarity," or protect people from the alleged ravages of "hyper-capitalism," or promote national values to an increasingly blasé world, but at least these are concrete articulations of a positive government agenda, one that is buttressed by France's semi-legendary (if slipping) public sector productivity.

You will hear no such arguments in California, even as a surly political/journalistic class continues its bitter campaign against "small government zealots" and voters who failed to heed their wisdom this month about the necessity of approving yet another round of budget gimmicks and tax hikes. Curiously, in the face of evidence that state spending growth has outpaced population-plus-inflation growth under each of the last three governors, the people busy sounding the alarm against "annihilating" budget cuts have fallen tellingly mute when it comes to explaining just why Californians should pay more and more money for government services every year.

What, exactly, has been the return on this added investment? If spending under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger increased 6.75 percent a year during mostly good times, surely there must be, say, a 3 percent increase in the quantity or quality of...something? Crickets.

Instead of making the positive case for big government, or at least beginning to explain, let alone defend, what Sacramento does with all that money, California's political class has instead opted for a four-pronged strategy: deny, scare, attack, then call for higher taxes.

First is the denial that there is a government-growth issue in the first place. This takes some intellectual dexterity, since the facts indicate otherwise.

Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik, for example, declared this week that the notion California had a spending problem was "an infectious myth." But Hiltzik was only able to arrive at that conclusion by not categorizing bond spending as "spending," and mis-measuring a 14 percent population increase over the past decade as 30 percent. An Los Angeles Times news article—with the objective headline "California budget crisis could bring lasting economic harm"—dismissed the big-government critique in two sentences: "Businesses have long complained about big-spending government in California. But with state and local spending accounting for about one-fifth of the state's gross domestic product, California is in line with some other heavily populated, expensive-to-manage states, such as New York and Florida." Left out of that comparison (besides a more representative opposition than "businesses" who "complained") was an even bigger state than New York or Florida: Texas, where state and local spending is not "in line" with California at all.

The scare story is the easiest to tell, and sell. It requires no falsifying, no comprehensive analysis of state spending, just selected horror stories and numbers about the miserables left behind by a suddenly crippled state. "Poor would bear brunt of California budget cuts," the Los Angeles Times headlined one story. Commented the California progressive Robert Scheer, in a disbelieving TruthDig column on federal reluctance to bail out the Golden State: "Bail out the banks, but not the 500,000 poor families with children served by the CalWorks program, which will be dismantled, or the 928,000 children covered by the Healthy Families program, slated for oblivion."

Next, and most fun, comes the attack, mostly against that vanishing and largely impotent California tribe known as "Republicans." New York Times economic columnist Paul Krugman called the state GOP "the party of Rush Limbaugh," with members who "have become ever more extreme," yet with "enough seats in the Legislature to block any responsible action in the face of the fiscal crisis." Washington Post labor columnist and longtime L.A. hand Harold Meyerson said that "today's GOP state legislators," when compared to the self-styled "Neanderthal" conservatives of the 1978 tax revolt, make "the Neanderthals look like Diderot's Encyclopedists."

How is it possible to blame a spending-based budget crisis on the spending-averse minority party in an increasingly monolithic Democratic state? This is where the reeling political class actually senses an opportunity.

"The biggest obstacle of all," wrote Los Angeles Times Sacramento columnist George Skelton just after the election, "is the inane two-thirds majority vote requirement for passage of virtually any money bill—spending or taxes." That two-thirds requirement, along with a cap on property-tax increases for owners who hold onto their homes and businesses, was part of the landmark 1978 voter initiative Proposition 13. 

"The truth is that real solutions to the budget crisis are obvious," Hiltzik wrote just after the election. "One: Eliminate, or at least loosen substantially, the two-thirds legislative requirement to pass a budget or raise taxes. [...] Three is the Big One: Revise Proposition 13. Prop 13 is often described as a tax-cutting measure, but that scarcely does justice to the damage it has caused."

Also singing in the Prop. 13-must-go chorus were Krugman, Meyerson, UC Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, the Los Angeles Times editorial board, The American Prospect's Tim Fernholz, and just about any newsroom employee you'll run into. To a man, they'll tell you that the initiative is responsible for "bringing the state to [its] knees in four decades," or in Meyerson's florid verbiage, for having "reduced the Golden State to baser metal."

But if that analysis is true, then there is a natural follow-up question that none seem to ask: Why is it that the quality of government services is going down when the prices are going up? Snap intuition suggests that taxpayer dollars are being spent less efficiently each year. The more you spend on waste, the less you can spend on those 928,000 children.

Though there are far fewer zero-sum contests in economics than most people think, the battle over taxpayer dollars is definitely one of them. Every Californian worried about service cuts should take a very close look at state-sector pension contributions and the sweetheart contracts negotiated by the public sector unions that aren't even apologetic about helping run the state's finances into the ground.

It's only a suspicion, but my guess is that the main reason pro-spending commenters and legislators don't regale us with defenses of the virtuous State is that in their hearts they know it isn't true. If Sacramento is providing boffo services, it isn't immediately evident in the places where non-welfare-recipient Californians are most likely to encounter them: On the clogged highways, in the crappy public schools, at the local DMV. If the stuff we don't normally see is being delivered with increasingly better results, that's the kind of story that might begin to persuade skeptical Californians. But that's precisely the story that the state's political class won't—or can't—tell.

Matt Welch is editor in chief of
Reason.

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  • ||

    California,
    Reality sucks doesn't it?

  • ||

    Hey, back off the DMV! I had to get my license renewed last month and I was dreading the trip to the DMV. I finally made it to the local office and within 15 minutes I had my picture taken by a friendly, english-speaking woman who encouraged me to smile for the picture.

    Vehicle registration? Done online with a credit-card as painlessly as a purchase from Amazon.

    You can bitch all you want about the REST of our state government, but the DMV is just alright with me.

    Seriously though, I've been thinking a lot lately about moving to southern Oregon. But it has a lot more to do with my shitty $400k house(yes, it's still worth that) in my shitty neighborhood where I'm stuck next to a couple of ghetto families sharing their dad's 5 bedroom house. At least in Oregon I might be able to have enough land that I don't have to listen to my neighbor's phone calls at 6 AM and smell their shitty, flavored cigars. But I digress...

  • ||

    Attorneys General combine the worst of both professions.

  • KD||

    If all this wasn't enough, now our "governor" is begging the Feds for stimulus money. I am disgusted with our government. Also, what happened to all the taxes that were just enacted? Weren't we promised that that was the fix for everything? I know that I have ordered as much as possible from Amazon to avoid paying the extra sales tax (illegal I know).

  • ||

    now our "governor" is begging the Feds for stimulus money



    Woohoo! It's about goddamn time. We've been paying more to the feds than we get back for years now. We need to cut spending, but they need to cough up some assistance.

  • ||

    We've been paying more to the feds than we get back for years now.



    Yes, because you used to be a rich state. Rich states are donor states, poor states aren't.

    Should Michigan be celebrating since it has gone from a historic donor state to a recipient of government largesse?

    Getting more money from the government than you send it is a sign of poverty at the state level as well.

  • EJM||

    For whatever reason, that photo always reminds me of this (first-season version; second-season version).

  • ||

    Woohoo! It's about goddamn time. We've been paying more to the feds than we get back for years now. We need to cut spending, but they need to cough up some assistance.

    Shhh. Don't tell the red staters that they are welfare feeder states.

    Numbers upset them.

  • ||

    Though there are far fewer zero-sum contests in economics than most people think, the battle over taxpayer dollars is definitely one of them.

    Politics-based redistribution is not a zero-sum game. It's a negative sum game.

  • Paul||

    California,
    Reality sucks doesn't it?


    Yes it does. Will that be cash or charge, J sub D? We're all Californians now.

  • Paul||

    I finally made it to the local office and within 15 minutes I had my picture taken by a friendly, english-speaking woman who encouraged me to smile for the picture.

    Please cross-link to lonewacko.

  • CH||

    I read recently that NJ is a donor state to the point where we only receive 61 cents of assistance for every dollar we send to the feds. Maybe the solution is to chop CA up in to much smaller pieces and have its highways smell like shit?

    Or, and I'm just spitballing here, we move NYC to CA?

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Here's an idea... How's about California reduces it's regulatory burden & lowers taxes for everyone (especially corporations for at least the short term, and then everyone else), and kills 3-4 birds with one stone:

    1. Fewer regulations on stuff like... Oh, I don't know, free-range chicken farming(!?) = Fewer regulatory agencies/salaries for asshat nannying regulators.
    2. Make CA business friendly again, instead of the place that every business owner with half a brain and *any* ability to take his wares elsewhere avoids like the plague, that way the state will be more productive/wealthier again.
    3. Brings rich people back, gives jobs to poor people = lower unemployment, which again, good for the people + less of a burden on tax resources.


    But yeah, CA will never ever do any of that will they.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Oh... ALllllllllso... Shut the fuck up Paul Krugman.

  • Colin||

    I was told the other day that California will now ticket passengers for not wearing seatbelts. Even children will be cited.

    And there's a new bill that would charge a $0.25 tax on every grocery bag.

  • ||

    I read recently that NJ is a donor state to the point where we only receive 61 cents of assistance for every dollar we send to the feds.



    Yes, because New Jersey has one of the highest average incomes by dollar amount in the country. Since the federal government treats people as individuals, on balance New Jersey has more people who pay more.

    Shhh. Don't tell the red staters that they are welfare feeder states.



    Shrug. It's the blue states that keep trying to change federal law so that more money gets shoveled to the poorer, red states. The red states go after pork, but shrike, aren't you one of the ones reminding us that pork isn't an important part of the budget? Admittedly, they do a few things like try to remove the AMT to keep more money home. (AMT gets rid of the deductibility of state income taxes, which is one way that rich states keep their money in their state.)

  • ||

    Apparently shrike dislikes those uppity poor that don't vote for their generous betters.

  • Ray Gardner||

    Jasno:

    RE: Oregon

    Check out their property taxes. Yikes!

    I have a couple of in-laws there and the property taxes keep them in a condo.

    The Fraser Institute does a good economic index that measures the overall economic freedom of the states.

  • ||

    Good article.

    Check out their property taxes. Yikes!

    Yeah, but the thing about Oregon's property taxes is that they rank 30th compared to the other state's property taxes (according to 2006 numbers). California is 28th.

    That's the thing that makes all this Prop 13 brouhaha sound like a nonsensical "infectious myth". The thing that sucks about Prop 13 is that 77% of our County property tax revenue makes its way down yonder to Sacto.
    How do you hold people accountable for spending the money ("almost to the penny" har har) when they're 200 miles away? If Prop 13 needs reforming, I'd say that would be the best bet.

  • ||

    And California's online vehicle registration is pretty handy, but I don't think it's worth the nearly double fees (I think?) that went into effect last week.

    Oregon does have the pretty cool option to register for 2 or 4 years.

  • ||

    Oops, I messed up; *87%* of County revenue goes to Sacto.

  • ||

    I finally made it to the local office and within 15 minutes I had my picture taken by a friendly, english-speaking woman who encouraged me to smile for the picture.

    Yeah, I've been in the Bishop DMV office too. Too bad none of the offices in San Diego (or other metro areas) are anything like that.

  • LarryA||

    New York Times economic columnist Paul Krugman called the state GOP "the party of Rush Limbaugh," with members who "have become ever more extreme," yet with "enough seats in the Legislature to block any responsible action in the face of the fiscal crisis."

    Any word on how those few nasty Republicans defeated all but one of the recent crisis-fixing propositions in a general election?

  • shrike||

    Shit, I just realized I don't have a good argument. I better make some Rush Limbaugh and Teabagger jokes.

  • Schempf||

    Jasno,
    As a 16 yr refugee from CA I can honestly say the climate is better up here.

    Property taxes, income taxes are a little on the high side but no sales tax and the user fees are minimal. I definately feel over taxes but I can also say I can see my tax dollars at work.

    It's no libertarian uptopia and frankly if the state was as large as CA it would probably be equally fucked up.

    With that said, with a population of $3+mm and a fantastic quality of life - it sure beats CA.

  • This Very Night||

    Location: Trailer Park, 20 miles East of Biloxi, Ms.

    One Tooth Clyde: Daisey, I don't sleep so good tonight.

    Daisey: What's botherin' you, pa?

    OTC: Somewhere up North there's a fella named Shrike who don't like us too good. We just ain't his kind of people.

    Daisey: Well, is the damn fool still signing his name to the checks he writes to the IRS?

    OTC: I reckon'.

    Daisey: Is the damn fool still voting Democrat?

    OTC: Sure e'neff, and proudly so.

    Daisey: Quit yer bitchin'. His pride will make him an easy mark for the rest of his life so long as he can look down his nose at us.

    OT: You right, there, ma. (Chuckle) Damn fool.

  • robc||

    States dont pay taxes, people do.

  • robc||

    Does any state really get back more than they send in to DC (ignoring the fact of my previous post)? I would think that after transactional losses (IE, bureaucracy, Iraq), that even Mississippi is a donor state.

  • ||

    Well,if Californians would just urge that muscle head who wets his girly-man panties over 'global warming' to go to Washington and give Obozo a 'Lewinsky',I'm sure their budgetary problems would become a thing of the past...and he would no doubt enjoy his meal enough to say "I'll be back".

  • Xmas||

    Robc,

    Well, the problem is that the highest recipient states are home to either: military bases, vital waterways, or gigantic swaths of undevelopable National Park Service land. Since each of these things are controlled by the Federal Government, those states are "recipients" of lot's of Federal dollars.

    Except for West Virginia, I have no idea *cough*Byrd*cough* why that state gets so much money.

  • ||

    Let them drop off into the ocean.

  • ||

    The big lie continues: California state workers get huge salary and pension benefits that are bankrupting the State.

    Fact: my last pay raise was July 1, 2006, nearly three years ago.

    Fact: Arnold has reduced the pay of all State employees by 10%. I'm now earning what I did in 2006, less 10%.

    Fact: the State has not made a contribution to the pension plan in years. All employees pay 5% or 6% of their salary, depending on their classification. That's how pension benefits are funded.

    STOP THE LIES!

  • ||

    Fact:

    I never have received a pay raise since I began working. Only when I switch jobs. Every job that I've had I've had for multiple years.

    Fact:

    I've never even seen a pension.

    Point: State workers who often provide little or no benefit compared to say, a pizza delivery boy, have relatively cushy job conditions compared to everyone else.

    Stop the bullshit!

  • ||

    Want to know where all the education spending goes? At my son's public high school, less than half of the full-time staff are actually teachers in a classroom every day. At the local UC campus, a mere 6% of the full-time employees are actual teaching faculty.

    I am sure it's the same in Sacramento. The Big Lie being promulgated here is that to save money California must axe all those quite necessary people it employes -- CHIPs, actual K-12 science teachers, ESL teachers in the community colleges, heck even the counter workers at the DMV.

    It's complete bullshit. There are ENORMOUS ranks of drones in Sacramento, and in every single public agency, who do almost nothing at all except facilitate, re-arrange, document, coordinate, and administer, contributing just about zip to the productivity of the agency in question. I have no doubt at all that you could fire half the employees of the State and not affect services one tiny bit -- if you could choose who exactly to fire.

  • ||

    Let me offer two "cuts in service" that would save Californians $850 million a year.

    First, abolish the California Energy Commission. It's REAL name is Anti-Energy Commission as it seems intent on blocking workable energy sources like coal and nuclear. It is also the source of obnoxious regulations like state-controlled thermostats for the home and office and has even told you that you can't leave your porch light on. That's half a billion there.

    The second cut is half the California Air Resource Board. They have a $700 million annual budget. These are the folks that want you to drive dinky, non-black cars, if you MUST drive. That would save another $350 million for a total savings of $850 million.

    It is not all the savings we need but it these are "services" we don't need.

  • ||

    Yes, we're all Californians now. But some of us have the good fortune to also be Texans.

    After 30 years in the Golden State, seeing the impending train wreck, we high-tailed it back to Texas.

    As just one example of the difference that lower taxes get you: instead of sullen school admins who routinely keep you waiting 20 minutes for appointments and then exhibit zero follow-through, we were forced to deal with smiling admins who would see you on the spot and usually get any matter taken care of same day and phone you to report the outcome and make sure you are satisfied.

  • Later, that afternoon||

    Location: Welfare Office, Biloxi MS

    One Tooth Cletus: Mornin' Wilber'

    Case Manager Wilbert: Morning Cletus. You are in luck, friend.

    One Tooth Cletus: Mr Shrike's check come today?

    Wilbert: Yep, that sucker always pays on time. Here you go.

    One Tooth Cletus: How much did we hit him up this time? Woo Wee! forty four thousand. That oughta tied me over fer a while.

    Wilbert: He is a might generous one, that Shrike.

    Cletus: You know what I say to that? Fuck 'em.

    Wilbert: Yeah, fuck 'em all.

    Cletus: Good thing this check came when it did. I need to fill up my tank so I can attend an anti-abortion rally up there in Deerborne, Michigan this weekend.

    Wilbert: With all the Arab and Hispanic immigrants, we'll have Michigan, Illinois and California on our side in no time. Good luck, Cletus!

    Cletus: You too, Wilbert.

  • ||

    California State Worker, if it's so rough doing what you do, why don't you get a job in the private sector?

    Oh - your health benefits wouldn't be so good, you'd have to pay something for your spouse's coverage, your salary would be lower, and you wouldn't get to retire at 55, either. Damn.

  • Tom||

    The public employee unions have this state by the short hairs. A few years ago the Governor tried going up against them with a series or reasonable propositions. He got spanked so hard he hasn't defied them since. California will continue its downward spiral until 2 things happen.

    1) Ban the public employee unions and cut public employee pay by however much they were paying the unions in dues.

    2) Ammend the proposition system to disallow bond measures.

    Even then we probably can't afford the luxury retirement we are obligated to provide for public employees.

  • ||

    Our government says that they have to cut children, welfare, elderly programs because they have already cut everything they can to keep us out of trouble, but I haven't heard WHAT they have already cut. show me!!!

  • ||

    Matt, great article and keep fighting the good fight! I've been surrounded by Cadillac liberals (though here they all drive European or Japanese cars) all my life in this state, but I still have hope that in the end the local politics won't destroy such a wonderful place to live.

  • ||

    The truth is that the CA legislature and Arnie can't do much. The power is held by various special interests which have, over the years, become virtually immune from reality.

    And this is worsened because the state and federal courts will not allow some cuts. And we have just seen O forbid certain pay cuts for state workers.

    The unstated premise in much public employment is that your job is personal property for life. And like physical property it cannot be taken away.

    All involved parties routinely lie now. The unions, legislators, media, those comfortably sitting on about a thousand commissions, state universities wanting funds, media, bankers owning state bonds, and the elected officers.

    The voters rejected more taxes on May 19. It doesn't matter. In truth no level of taxation or shifting of funds will suffice. It is either federal bail-out or chaos.

    And a bail-out simply makes others pay. At some point the Chinese will decline that honor just as they have been signaling.

    Only a new state constitution and changes to federal laws and federal practices can lead CA out of this mess. Their economy will be a disaster for at least two years even if wise decisions are made.

    And the odds of that?

  • ||

    Reason: "Curiously, in the face of evidence that state spending growth has outpaced population-plus-inflation growth under each of the last three governors"

    And that makes no sense given that Ca is one of the richest places on earth. If people should be able to take care of themselves anywhere, it's in easy-living, high-income Ca. One place the money has gone is to housing ever-larger numbers of convicts. Ca.'s 3-strikes law is having real budget consequences. An indirect effect has been to increase the size and power of the prison guard's union. It's now a hugely powerful force in state politics, and has gotten lots of candy for its members. Maybe that's who the proposed bailout is for?

    Times: "Businesses have long complained about big-spending government in California. But with state and local spending accounting for about one-fifth of the state's gross domestic product, California is in line with some other heavily populated, expensive-to-manage states, such as New York and Florida."

    Guess Prop 13 hasn't limited revenues that much after all, unless somebody thinks Ca needs to spend a whole lot more than those other states.

    Reason: "How is it possible to blame a spending-based budget crisis on the spending-averse minority party in an increasingly monolithic Democratic state? This is where the reeling political class actually senses an opportunity."

    It's not only spending based. And the 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases gives Republicans an effective veto.

    Reason: "Also singing in the Prop. 13-must-go chorus were Krugman, Meyerson, UC Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, the Los Angeles Times editorial board, The American Prospect's Tim Fernholz, and just about any newsroom employee you'll run into. To a man, they'll tell you that the initiative is responsible for "bringing the state to [its] knees in four decades," or in Meyerson's florid verbiage, for having "reduced the Golden State to baser metal."

    If in normal times, Ca. spending is similar to other big urban states, why is Prop 13 a fiscal problem? (I'd like to see a more rational policy, but the odds of getting one are 0.) Unlike income taxes, Prop 13 revenues don't fluctuate wildly when the economic picture changes.

    Finally, what will happen if uncle Sugar doesn't bring the bailout goodies? I.e., will push actually come to shove? If so, we'll see where the real power lies on the Democrat side. Teacher's unions vs guard unions? Enviros vs nurses? The mind reels.

  • Q||

    I'm starting to wonder if high taxes and government waste relates to the desirability of the area.

    Mid-coastal areas are nice, so the government acts like a landlord and extracts more rent from the tenants (gets to grow more).

    Of course I'd hate to live in Iowa, so thats out.

  • ||

    The DMV is SF is an absolute horror show. The DMV in San Mateo is not busy, friendly, and oddly efficient. They processed my app and took my picture (smile allowed) and had me out the door 5 minutes after my appointment (made online) was scheduled to start. Earlier, I was able to renew both my car and motorcycle reg's in a total of 2 minutes online.

  • ||

    Thanks for the well written article. Im really sorry about the poor people-I am, Im a nurse, for God sake, but it seems that the poor always get their "bail out" from the Government (taxpayers).
    California doesnt have any money, period. Why is it a requirment to the point of being made to feel guilty, that we are supposed to care for everyone as well as ourselves? I dont have any children, I dont need any, I have plenty of dependants. Can I claim them on my taxes?

  • zoltan||

    Anyone do the math on how much CA would save if they weren't providing public assistance to immigrants (illegal or not)?

  • ||

    Z et al.

    All sorts of studies have been done about how much CA state gov. spends caring for illegals.

    The studies answers range from zero to infinity. Most center around $10B/year. The state budget is well over $100B/year.

    A few conclude that illegals actually boost the CA economy. Politics not only makes strange bedfellows, it also makes strange numbers.

    However the exact answer to Z's question is zero. CA would not save one penny. The CA political establishment has repeatedly shown it will spend every cent it can obtain and cry for more.

    Give CA $1T tomorrow and they will be in deficit by Monday evening.

  • ||

    As a squishy moderate from the fledgling Sanity Party, I would have been pleased to see the state cut spending two years ago when the Senate Republicans were holding up the budget, arguing that the revenue numbers were lies and the state was spending itself into a hole.

    However, I wouldn't have minded all that much if the state had raised taxes a bit (even restoring the dreaded old "car tax") to make the books balance.

    Instead of either of those reality-based options, though, the deadlock created by the two-thirds rule has led the state to keep spending high (as the Democrats like) without the taxes to match (because Republicans resist raising them), and instead the Republicans eventually relent and go for gimmicks and debt.

    The state's now run out of gimmicks and debt, and will literally run out of cash in late July.

    The recession's very bad and would cause a great deal of political heartburn in the best of circumstances, but a gridlocked system that prevents the Legislature from doing anything has made it much worse than it needed to be.

    In any case, the majority vote for budgets and taxes would give the Democrats all the rope they needed to hang themselves and provoke a backlash.

  • ||

    Oh, and as for state services, I will say that up in my NorCal hometown, Caltrans has been on a building boom, including some highway improvements that have been planned but unfunded for more than a decade, so to an extent, we have been seeing the state's spending spree in action.

    Can't speak for the schools -- no kids in 'em yet.

  • ||

    The car tax IS back, just wait until you get your car registration in the mail. Got mine yesterday. About doubled. Enough. the damn state is still screwed. Do you have dependant children or know anyone who does? Look foward to $100 tax credit for each instead of the usual $300 - you happy? Im not-this AINT the answer. get out of my wallet
    Tax Revolt, recall Schwarzenegger

  • ||

    CA's problem is simple. It's politcal class refuses to lead the state into secession. As a nation state CA could run all the deficits it wants. It could even opt for a Venezuelan style democracy. Sean Penn could lead it. But they are all Unionists aka christian roaders.

  • trotsky||

    Merijoe,

    Yes, it doubled -- however, if you drive an older car, it's still a trivial part of the total registration fee. The "license fee" on my current registration renewal has doubled to $8, compared with $56 for the "registration fee" and $80 for the "weight fee" because I could be using my pickup for commercial purposes. (Which I don't -- and even if I did, it's a four-cyclinder Nissan that with its load maxed out still weighs less than many of the SUVs I see on the road.)

    In any case, even with the current increase, the VLF is less than it's been through the great majority of the automobile age in California.

    As for the child tax credit, it was also increased during the late '90s boom to give money back to taxpayers when the state had too much.

    It's perfectly reasonable to ask the state to cut back boom-year spending in a recession -- so why not the same about tax breaks?

  • ||

    If the government isn't happy with the people, they should dissolve the people and elect a new people.

  • ||

    Er.....don't they have a Republican governor in CA who was put in office on a recall election that Mr Welch supported at the time. CA finances are a mess and it's mainly because of Proposition 13 which made the state overly dependant on income taxes. Every time there's a recession, CA has a budget crisis. One of my brothers lives in CA in a very expensive home in Brentwood but even he agrees Prop 13 has been a disaster for CA. And the authors of Prop 13....the Republicans of course. I'm afraid Republicans need to re-learn how to govern.

  • ||

    I have to agree that the DMV has improved (at least the one in Folsom). I used to dread the long lines and incompetence at the Placerville, Carmichael and Folsom offices but they seem to have finally listened to the 30+ years of complaints and now have it almost half as good as the other state I have vehicles in (Idaho) - true, the Gem State still does it better, faster and more polite and for only about 1/6th (and as said above it's being doubled so make that 1/12th) the cost in fees but CA has at least made a bit of progress.

    The highest-paid teachers with the best benefits are still graduating disfunctional teens indoctrinated to hate the US so maybe the person who figured out how to reduce the DMV lines could take a crack at that problem.

  • ||

    People supporting overturning of Prop 13 either don't know or don't remember the distress of people on fixed incomes that were forced to sell their homes when the property taxes kept rising. If I recall, last year there were homeowners in, I think, New Jersey and some other eastern states that were seeing their taxes increase to levels they couldn't afford. In a booming housing market the assessed valuation can rapidly push taxes sky high. The increased value is only realized by the homeowners when they sell the house. Prior to Prop 13, a lot of homeowners were converted into renters.

  • Ellen K||

    What is interesting is while the liberal bitch while Cali burns, the businesses and individuals who used to pay taxes have moved on to states that want them. It's no big secret that when businesses start being the source of all income for what amounts to a quasi-socialist welfare state, they feel put upon. As I have pointed out several times, liberals do not understand that corporations and businesses ARE NOT ALIVE. That means that every tax, surcharge or penalty levied in the name of endangered slugs or community participation is passed on to the consumer in the product or service. Take this same idea and apply it to the auto industry and you can understand why we are not competing well with foreign manufacturers. My suggestion is that the generation who made fortunes on dotcom's realize that their day is over. The Age of Information is done. What programmers here do for $70K, programmers in India will do for $12K. In order to compete we must be innovative. And the liberals with their reluctance to admit that America's strength has always come from our ability to innovate, is keeping us in this economic doldrums.

  • ||

    From California State Worker:
    Fact: the State has not made a contribution to the pension plan in years. All employees pay 5% or 6% of their salary, depending on their classification. That's how pension benefits are funded.

    STOP THE LIES!
    _________________________________
    A couple of questions:
    Do you also pay Social Security?
    If you don't pay SS, then you have a better deal that most of us.

    Are your retirement benefits guaranteed by me (the taxpayer)?
    If my 401K drops, I am on the hook, not the taxpayer.

    So you didn't get a raise since 2006? Let me call the wahh-mbulance.
    Do what I did: I quit my job in 2006 and went into a different field that pays more.
    When you feed at the public trough, you are subject to the whims of the voters.

  • ||

    John wrote:
    Er.....don't they have a Republican governor in CA who was put in office on a recall election that Mr Welch supported at the time. CA finances are a mess and it's mainly because of Proposition 13 which made the state overly dependant on income taxes. Every time there's a recession, CA has a budget crisis. One of my brothers lives in CA in a very expensive home in Brentwood but even he agrees Prop 13 has been a disaster for CA. And the authors of Prop 13....the Republicans of course. I'm afraid Republicans need to re-learn how to govern.

    oh, those horrible Republicans (honey, hide the kids!), trying to stop the Govt from kicking old people out of their homes! How dare they pass Prop 13 and stop that accepted practice. Let's pass a law and let old people euthanize themselves.
    PS. Brentwood is NOT expensive and sounds much better than the reality. Too far from SF and the housing market has been devastated.

  • ||

    Thats the answer, Jimbo, pass a bill to kill yourself,Im about to blow my own brains out, reading some of these comments.
    Without prop 13 you D-bags who think prop 13 was the equiviolent to Hitler raising from the dead, would be living under bridges.
    What is wrong with you people? tax increases effect you too or maybe you work for a union or, maybe you're rich and dont care about your own kids/grandkids/friends/people in general-and BTW, this is not a political thing, its a human being thing. so dont use the republican/democrat bullshit.
    One other thing, you just might be paying 8 bucks for your car registration for that 1945 Rambler, but most people own newer cars and have to pay more. But you dont care, do you? you arent affected. you live in a bubble and feel taxes for the grand privilege of living in California (cause we get nothing else) is a good old thing. WTF? and lets say, oh, you have 2 kids under age 18, and you are a single mom-thats a $400 dollar hit she has to take, but lets roll back the time to 1990 when life according to Trotsky, was beginning in CA and the $300 a head for dependant children was installed instead of the $100 it was. yeah, we should revert back to that $100 bucks cause there are no new under age 18 dependants since 1990

  • ||

    One of the serious problems and causes of discontent is that state and other public pensions have been quietly guaranteed in state constitutions and statutes.

    So no matter how badly a fund is managed or even looted the public pensioner does not suffer. The government will attempt to confiscate private property or raise taxes to cover the full amount.

    These public plans often guarantee medical coverage and cost of living adjustments. But that varies.

    This is in sharp contrast to private pensions which are only partly guaranteed by a federal fund, the PBGC. Private pensioners may see a good portion of their pension vanish.

    And when the PBGC takes control not all pensioners are treated equally. Some get a much better deal than others.

    Medical and COLA are not guaranteed for private plans.

    It is hardly surprising that the last thing the UAW at GM and Chrysler want is to have their failing pension plans turned over the the PBGC. But with O in control that didn't happen.

    And the elected officials and federal employees are not subject to the difficulties of the economy. Their stuff is guaranteed w/o limits too.

    The PBGC apparently jumped into the stock market at the wrong time and took big hits. I haven't followed that. But remember those hits really fall on private pensioners. No one at the agency feels them.

    The total amount of these pension promises - guarantees - is not clearly known. As one might expect studies reach widely different answers.

    Honest studies must still project. Try your hand at projecting these for ten, twenty, fifty, even one hundred years: GNP and the income of the private sector, the deficit or surplus from all government spending, the life expectancy of the population, and the interest rates.

    But there is no doubt the liabilities are huge, so large as to defy any serious pretense that we are prepared for them.

  • Richard Rider - Chair - San Di||

    Breaking Bad: California vs. the Other States
    by Richard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters
    Version 1.41 Revised 22 May, 2009
    Phone: 858-530-3027 RRider@san.rr.com

    Here's a depressing comparison of California taxes and economic climate with the rest of the states. The news is breaking bad, and getting worse:

    California has the 2nd highest state income tax in the nation. 9.55% at $48,000. 10.55% at $1,000,000

    By far the highest state sales tax in the nation. 8.25% (not counting local sales taxes)

    Highest state car tax in the nation - at least double any other state. 1.15% per year on value of vehicle.

    Corporate income tax rate is the highest in the West. 8.84%

    2009 Business Tax Climate ranks 48th in the nation.
    http://www.taxfoundation.org/research/topic/15.html

    Fourth highest capital gains tax 9.55%
    http://www.thereibrain.com/realestate-blog/capital-gains-tax-rates-state-by-state/109/

    Second highest gasoline tax (58.3 cents) in the nation (April, 2009). When gas is $3.00+/gallon, we are numero uno.
    http://www.api.org/statistics/fueltaxes/

    Fifth highest unemployment rate in the nation. (April, 2009) 11.0%
    http://www.bls.gov/news.release/laus.nr0.htm

    California's 2009 "Tax Freedom Day" (the day the average taxpayer stops working for government and start working for oneself) is again the fourth worst date in the nation - up from 28th worst in 1994.
    http://www.taxfoundation.org/research/show/387.html

    1 in 5 in LA County receiving public aid.
    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-welfare22-2009feb22,0,4377048.story

    California prison guards highest paid in the nation.
    http://www.caltax.org/caltaxletter/2008/101708_fraud1.htm

    California teachers easily the highest paid in the nation.
    http://www.nea.org/home/29402.htm (CA has the second lowest student test scores)

    California now has the lowest bond ratings of any state, edging out Louisiana.
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/03/19/BA7F16JLKH.DTL

    California ranks 44th worst in "2008 lawsuit climate."
    http://www.instituteforlegalreform.com/component/ilr_featured_tools/29/item/LAI/19.html

    In 2005 (latest figures), for every dollar Californians sent to D.C. in taxes, we got back 78 cents - 43rd worst.
    http://www.taxfoundation.org/taxdata/show/22685.html

    America's top CEO's rank California "the worst place in which to do business" for the fourth straight year (3/2009). But here's the interesting part - they think California is a great state to live (primarily for the great climate) - they just won't bring their businesses here because of the oppressive tax and regulatory climate.
    Consider this quote from the survey (a conclusion reflected in the rankings of the characteristics of the state): "California has huge advantages with its size, quality of work force, particularly in high tech, as well as the quality of life and climate advantages of the state. However, it is an absolute regulatory and tax disaster."
    http://tinyurl.com/cyvufy

    With 12.1% of the nation's population [36,756,666 divided by 303,824,640], in February, 2009 California was responsible for 20.9% of the newly unemployed. To state it differently, in February California's percentage growth in UNemployment was 72.7% above the national average.
    http://www.bls.gov/news.release/mmls.htm

    California, a destitute state, still gives away college education at fire sale prices. Our community college tuition is by far the lowest in the nation. How low? Nationwide, the average community college tuition is 4.5 times higher than California CC's. This ridiculously low tuition devalues education to students - resulting in a 30+% drop rate for class completion. In addition, many California CC students fill out a simple form that exempts them from ANY tuition payment at all.
    http://www.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/capitolalertlatest/020722.html

    On top of that, California offers thousands of absolutely free adult continuing education classes - a sop to the upper middle class. In San Diego, over 1,400 classes for everything from baking pastries to ballroom dancing are offered totally at taxpayer expense.
    http://www.sdce.edu

    California residential electricity costs an average of 28.7% more than the national average. For industrial use, CA electricity is 48.6% higher than the national average (11/08).
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_a.html

    It costs 38% more to build solar panels in California than in Tennessee - which is why European corporations have invested $2.3 billion in two Tennessee manufacturing plants to build solar panels for our state.
    http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/blog/jack-stewart/more-solar-companies-producing-elsewhere-sell-california

    Consider California's net domestic migration (migration between states). From April, 2000 through June, 2008 (8 years, 2 months) California has lost a NET 1.4 million people. The departures slowed this past year only because people couldn't sell their homes.
    http://www.mdp.state.md.us/msdc/Pop_estimate/Estimate_08/table5.pdf
    These are not welfare kings and queens departing. They are the young, the educated, the productive, the ambitious, the wealthy (such as Tiger Woods), and retirees seeking to make their pensions provide more bang for the buck. The irony is that a disproportionate number of these seniors are retired state and local government employees fleeing the state that provides them with their opulent pensions - in order to avoid the high taxes that these same employees pushed so hard through their unions.

    As taxes rise and jobs disappear, we lose our tax base, continuing California's state and local fiscal death spiral. This spiral must stop NOW.

    NOTE: If you would like to receive my free periodic "Richard Rider Rant" e-newsletter with more of this type of information and analysis, just drop me an email at RRider@san.rr.com. To see the latest version of this "Breaking Bad" column, plus samples of my free "Richard Rider Rant" e-newsletter, go to my blog at http://www.RichardRiderRant.blogspot.com/.

  • ||

    Merijoe,

    Actually, it's a '93 Nissan pickup -- I'm sick of it, but it's a Nissan and just keeps running.

    Look, there was a great deal of new spending in the late '90s when the state was flush because of the dot-com boom. There were also a number of tax cuts.

    It seems reasonable to argue for rolling both back since the budget is so out of whack now -- and has been pretty much the entire decade.

  • Scarpe Nike Italia||

    is good

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