As the end of California’s fiscal year approaches, the Governor and state legislators confront a $24 billion deficit. While Republicans and Democrats wrangle over how to address the gaping shortfall, some members of the press have started to look for a scapegoat for the fiscal train wreck. Many have blamed the California taxpayer’s only protection: Prop. 13, the 1978 measure capping state property taxes at 1% of a home’s assessed value.
Perhaps the most egregious example of the finger-pointing is a recent piece from TIME’s Kevin O’Leary, moaning that “Before Prop 13, in the 1950s and '60s, California was a liberal showcase.” He insists that “at the root of California's misery lies Proposition 13,” and concludes that “in California, the conservative legacy lives on.”
How ridiculous. Of all the problems contributing to the fiscal mess, state under-taxation is the least of them. California’s sales and gas taxes are the highest in the country – and it has the highest vehicle license fees and the second-highest top-bracket income tax, too. Its corporate tax rates are the highest of all western states, and for the fourth year in a row, a survey of 543 CEO’s found that California’s toxic combination of high taxes and intrusive regulations made it the worst place in the nation to do business.
In fact, at the real root of California’s fiscal misery is the profligacy of arrogant, big-spending, left-wing legislators, who have treated taxpayers as if they exist only to support the government. Their attitude was exemplified in a recent statement from state assemblywoman Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), chairman of the state Budget Conference Committee, repudiating the governor’s call for the state to “live within its means”:
Well, there is this mantra out there – “live within our means” – and while that sounds really nice . . . and it sounds really responsible, it’s meaningless. Our means are completely within our control . . . We have just given away huge corporate subsidies in February; we have given away other tax reductions over many, many years; we’ve created tax loopholes; in good times, we routinely give away taxes, and then in lean times we never replace those tax deductions or close those loopholes. . . . So “live within our means” doesn’t mean anything. The fact is, we have a state with a population that have [sic] needs that we have a moral obligation to provide.
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