By Ken Hambrick
Just to recap a few things that happened in 2016:
- A $2 tax was added to a pack of cigarettes. Whether you approve of smoking or not, it’s a new tax.
- At least 13 cents a gallon was added to our gasoline as a result of cap and trade. This is a hidden tax and is taxed again by the gasoline sales tax – a double taxation. State Senator Patricia Bates says we are paying $2 billion in higher gas prices due to cap and trade.
- $850 million of cap and trade revenue was allocated to High Speed Rail (State Legislative Analyst’s report) – a losing project it there ever was one.
- Jerry Brown’s “temporary taxes” passed in 2012 were extended to 2030 – though Brown promised they'd be temporary.
- BART got voters to pass a $3.5 billion bond measure, giving them more money to mismanage.
- The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) spent $256 million of toll revenues on an office building – money which should have been spent on roads and highways.
One bright spot from last fall’s election was that Measure X, the County Transportation Authority’s sales tax increase, was defeated. But, don’t worry -- they’ll be back after it again soon.
Things to come . . .
Jerry Brown signed 807 new laws in 2016 and not one law was taken off the books. In 2017, the legislature is off and running with new, and many wild, proposals that may even eclipse the number signed last year. That in itself argues well for a return to a part-time legislature. (A full time legislature was authorized by the people in 1996. Only nine states presently have a full-time legislature.)
- The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will propose a bridge toll of $8 on all seven of the Bay Area’s state owned bridges as early as 2018. This would tax us $25 billion over 25 years.
- The MTC is considering putting a 10 cent a gallon gas tax in place in the nine Bay Area Counties, which would require voter approval. If approved, this would be the estimated impact on county drivers:
- MTC allocates only 33% of its transportation funds to roads and highways while at least 75% of weekday commutes are made by car.
- MTC is considering a bike path on the western section of the Bay Bridge at a cost of at least $300 million -- money that would be better spent elsewhere.
- On the state level, Gov. Brown is pushing a 10-cent tax hike on gasoline.
- Brown wants to put a new $65 annual registration fee on all vehicles.
- The state has a backlog of $59 billion worth of highway repairs and $71.3 billion for local streets and roads, and yet continues to throw millions of dollars at the high speed train to nowhere.
- Do you have a vacation or second home? The Legislature is proposing to eliminate the mortgage interest tax deduction for owners of second homes and spending the newly collected revenue on affordable housing.
Summing it up . . .
In 1959 Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown ushered in a golden age, making California famous for having the biggest water system, the best higher education, the best highways, and an economy exceeding that of nations. The state budget was balanced and taxes were deemed to be reasonable.
When his son Jerry first became Governor in 1975, all that began to change -- and not for the better. In his 6+ years in office the state has been in freefall. Taxes are tremendously higher, the infrastructure (a lot of which was developed by his father) has been allowed to crumble, public employee unions own the Legislature and, unfortunately we have a Democrat super-majority Legislature with a voracious appetite for tax 'n' spending.
The push is on for new taxes, coming from the Governor, Legislature, city and county politicians and other agencies like BART, the County Transportation Authority, MTC, etc. As far as taxation goes, 2017 is turning into an avalanche.
This is typical politician thinking – that the only way to fund anything is to tax us more. Improving spending of current revenues never seems to enter their minds.
It’s clear to any thinking person that all these agencies have plenty of tax money if only they would use it wisely. We really need to resist any new taxes or expensive new debt.
Californians are already the most heavily taxed state in the union. Our elected officials need to understand that we don’t need more taxes -- we just need prudent use of the taxes we already pay.