Town Square

Brown’s Leaky Bucket Tax Increase

Original post made by Duf Sundheim, another community, on Jul 20, 2011

The other morning I read an article by a major columnist that said the goals of those who oppose tax increases - or at least the result of such opposition was (1) the privatization of public schools, (2) driving students of limited means out of the universities and (3) eliminating tax-funded health care and social services for the poor. The same day another major columnist claimed people who opposed Brown's tax increase were disingenuously denying responsibility for soaring tuitions and the shredding of grandma's safety net. He asserted if such policies were followed to their logical conclusion there would be "no other honest choice but to starve college students" and "poor grandma".

First of all, let me say something some apparently may find controversial: I like grandmothers and do not want them to starve. Second, the problem with their rhetoric is that it distorts the problem we face. Who pays how much in taxes is a real issue. However, to say those of us who opposed the tax increase without other reforms (and a vast majority of Californians did so), will oppose imposing taxes even if it means people will starve is hateful, disingenuous and arrogant - not to mention inaccurate.
Our state government is like a leaky bucket. We need to repair the leaks beforewe put more water in the bucket. The Governor and legislature seem to believe there is an endless supply of water (taxpayer funds) and that just to keep grandma alive taxpayers must pour more and more water into the bucket at ever increasing rates. Such approach not only is wasteful but unsustainable.
The ones that really are putting grandma, not to mention public safety and our educational system, at risk are the Governor and the legislature. It is unconscionable that the same day tuition at our colleges is increased 13%, they increased administrators' pay by 23%. It is unsupportable that in the last 10 years the number of administrators in the UC system has doubled. It is unfathomable that as a matter of state law school officials are required to retain the most expensive teachers, even if that teacher is not the most qualified.
Those of us who oppose Brown's leaky bucket tax increase are not responsible for the fact union members often are making over $400,000 per year; receiving both a full salary and full pension because they technically "retired" years ago. We are not responsible that the average state worker receives retirement benefits (pension and health care) worth $1.2 million. It is not our fault lifeguards who can still lift me over their heads (no easy task these days) get pensions of over $100,000 a year. And we certainly are not responsible for the fact San Jose had to make drastic reductions in its police force because it costs $180,000 for each cop on the beat.
These are policies of the public employee unions made law by the Democrat legislators and Governor they control - not us.
Many public employees provide a valuable service. However, their pay, benefits and job security should be comparable to private sector workers. Our public sector employees deserve nothing less, we can afford nothing more.
As everyone knows (at least we used to know, I am not so sure any more) competition increases performance and lowers cost. With respect to California's prison system, we spend $47,000 per prisoner per year, over 50% more than the national average and nearly three times what Texas spends. And we are going in the wrong direction with Governor Brown approving an increasein prison guard pay - one of his major donors. According to California Common Sense (CACS) competition in this field alone could save California families upwards of $2 billion annually.

It is not just that the money is wasted, the services provided are appalling. 23 years ago Californians passed Proposition 98 to assure superior education funding. However, over the past several decades California has gone from having one of the best education systems in the world to one of the worst in the United States - on par with states like Mississippi and Louisiana.

Despite our record-breaking spending on incarcerations, the penal system is so dysfunctional for the first time in the history of our country the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that mere imprisonment in a California facility is "cruel and unusual punishment".

Throughout our history people risked their lives to come to California; whether it was climbing the rocky Sierra Mountains, traversing the sweltering Mojave and Sonoran Deserts or risking death on the treacherous South China Sea. I am sure each of you know someone whose journey to and time in California you find inspiring. Yet our government now goes out of the way to make it more difficult for such individuals to climb the ladder of success and punishes them once they achieve it. Just looking at it from a tax revenue perspective, instead of the broader benefit to society as a whole, unshackling the tremendous power of our people and our ability to come up with solutions to problems that have vexed society for centuries will do ten times more to increase state revenues than to punish economic activity by increasing the amount payable to Caesar for the same level of activity.

We have put too much faith and fortune in the hands of the state bureaucracy and not enough in the hands of those who really made this state great: we, the people. Californians are the solution to California's problems. It is time to unshackle the power of our people, compensate public employees at the level they both deserve and we can afford and increase competition between the government and the private sector. In so doing we will once again make California the envy of the world and in the process create sufficient revenues to keep our communities safe, have a first class, affordable education system - and take care of grandma too.