We need to wipe out Sacramento’s excuses for why they are not taxing the rich, and are instead giving us cuts-only budgets. Republicans are blaming majority party Democrats for our financial situation, but wait a minute – Democrats are blaming minority party Republicans. How can that be?
First thing to remember is California is a wealthy state. For one thing, the number of billionaires in the state has grown to 85 with a total wealth of $287 billion (10 times the California budget gap – think about that for a minute).
There’s no excuse for California to be in the financial situation it’s in, with bad budgets, terrible credit ratings, high unemployment, reduced educational opportunities, and a growing disparity of wealth.
What Can We Do?
Unlike voters in Wisconsin and other states, voters in California gave Democratic Party leadership big majorities in both houses of the Legislature, and 100% of statewide offices: Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Controller, Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and both U.S. Senators.
Could this group of elected officials stand together and make sure everyone knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what has happened to California? Of course. What if everyone knew with certainty that groups who’ve been blamed are not the root causes of our problems? Groups like welfare recipients, immigrants, school administrators, convicts.
“Honey, I love you, but you’ve got to change.”
That’s my valentine to old Prop 13. Keep the good parts, and acknowledge and fix the bad parts.
Proposition 13 was approved by voters in 1978 to keep people in their homes, especially seniors on fixed incomes. Thirty-plus years later a movement is afoot to fix problems caused by flattening property taxes, and do an even better job of keeping people in their homes.
Prop 13 had another rotten part. This one line in the ballot statement set the scene for the next 30+ years of bad budgets: Requires 2/3 vote of Legislature to enact any change in state taxes designed to increase revenues.
The State Controller, Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner, majorities in the Legislature along with the Governor could show us step-by-step how the 2/3 vote requirement for matters of revenue reduced taxes on the richest, raised taxes on the rest of us, and forced cuts in everything from budgets for schools to budgets for fixing pot-holes. Only voters have the power to fix it, by passing a state proposition.
Years ago California had taxes that were much more fair, and the richest 1% were still able to get richer. We can enact those taxes again when we understand and demand a change in old Prop 13. We can stop the gridlock, stop the excuses, and tax the rich!
California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It, by Joe Mathews and Mark Paul, 2010, 192 pages, http://www.californiacrackup.com/
California Budget Project www.cbp.org. Sign up for their blog, California Budget Bites.