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by Ben Shapiro

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U.S. Senate

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Tax Me More

By Senator Tom McClintock


The last time California's finances were as messed up as they are 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 recession-racked revenues.

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 a near-depression.

Eleven years have passed since those bitter days and California's 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 overture.

"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 power.

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 money.

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 pay whatever it would take to make them feel better." So far, a grand total of $260 has been raised.

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 its history.

And at the same time, we'll have spared California's working families another crushing round of new taxes in a cold and difficult winter recession.

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