The last time California's finances were as messed up as they
today was in 1991, and it happened in much the same way.
State officials had spent everything in sight during an economic
expansion and when the economy slowed, they were left dangling
in the gulch between their boom-time appetites and their
Any well-managed household would have cut out the waste in
its budget, but not California. The state increased its
total spending by 9.4 percent, and tried to pay for it with the
biggest tax increase in American history - more than $1,100 in
new taxes for an average family of four, "just to get the
state through those tough economic times," they said.
Unfortunately, California's families were going through those
same tough economic times, and the additional taxes broke their
backs, imploded the economy and turned a serious recession into
Eleven years have passed since those bitter days and
leaders appear to have learned precisely nothing.
A 37 percent increase in state spending in the last three
years has again left the state without the ability to cope with
a new recession. And again from Sacramento's solons comes the
siren song of tax increases. The sales tax hike that took
effect on New Year's Day has already reduced the purchasing
power of an average family by $120 a year, but that's just the
"Maybe I'm misreading the public," Assemblywoman
Carole Migden told a news conference a few weeks ago, "but
I think people would be more than happy to throw back a few
bucks to help working families, vaccinate kids and provide
quality schooling." To help those working families,
she then proposed tripling their car tax. An average
two-car family would end up paying an extra $268 under her
proposal in direct taxes - not to mention another $200 in higher
prices as businesses pass along their costs.
Meanwhile, Senator Don Perata is sponsoring an additional
one-cent sales tax increase, to combat "terrorism".
"It's easy to put the symbol of freedom on your lapel, but
it's a little harder to pay for it," he said. Indeed it is.
About $545 harder on an average family of four's purchasing
California's state government already spends the highest
portion of personal income in history: $9.09 out of every $100
earned. At the height of World War II from 1943-45, when
California faced an elaborate network of spies and saboteurs, it
only spent $2.33 of every $100 earned. But of course,
those were days when our leaders were careful how they spent our
Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas recently proposed an
answer to the tax-me-more crowd in his state. He opened a
"Tax Me More Fund" for all those people who
"would be more than happy to throw back a few bucks."
"To those folks who live in luxury, who have more money
than good sense," Huckabee said, "I'd like to offer
them this challenge...to pay whatever it would take to make them
feel better." So far, a grand total of $260 has been
If Ms. Migden is right, California would do much better.
Obviously, we haven't made it clear that the line on your tax
form that says "Tax Due" is only a suggested minimum.
A separate "tax me more" fund would undoubtedly raise
billions of additional dollars that legislators have neglected
to request. It would accommodate all those people who are
clamoring to "throw back a few bucks" to a government
that is already spending more and delivering less than ever in
And at the same time, we'll have spared California's working
another crushing round of new taxes in a cold and difficult
Senator McClintock represents the 19th State Senate District in
California Legislature. His website address is www.sen.ca.gov/mcclintock.
His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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