Taxing California

March 17, 2010Jon Brooks Comments Off

Of all the dysfunctional state governments, California’s may be at the top. California has a $20 billion budget deficit, but the state cannot raise taxes or pass a budget without a 2/3 majority vote in the state legislature. That law was enshrined in the state constitution in 1978 through Proposition 13, which also capped property taxes, reducing them by an average of 57%. Thus, it is nearly impossible to raise additional revenue in the state. From Time magazine:

What has brought California to such a perilous state? How did its government become so wildly dysfunctional? One obvious cause is the deep recession, which has caused tax revenues to plunge for all states. But California’s woes have a set of deeper reasons: direct democracy run amok, timid governors, partisan gridlock and a flawed constitution have all contributed to budget chaos and people in pain. And at the root of California’s misery lies Proposition 13, the antitax measure that ignited the Reagan Revolution and the conservative era. In Washington, the Reagan-Bush era is over. But in California, the conservative legacy lives on.

Lots of anti-tax folks, of course, like it that way. But now there is a push on to repeal the two-thirds majority requirement via the same initiative process that instituted it. The California Democracy Act would change just one word in the constitution in two places. The sentence “All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be determined by a 2/3 vote” would become “All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be determined by a majority vote.”

Here, George Lakoff, a linguist who works with Democrats on framing issues and who is the campaign chair of the initiative campaign, talks about the initiative and the problem of governing California:

George Lakoff speaks about the California Democracy Act (2010-02-19) from Edwin Rutsch on Vimeo.

For a diametrically opposed view of taxes, government, and everything else, check out the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, an organization dedicated to continuing the work of Howard Jarvis, who spearheaded the original initiative, and to protecting Proposition 13 and expanding anti-tax policies.

Comments are closed.