Is the California gubernatorial recall election, Oct. 7, an expression of outraged, tax-weary California residents? This remains the bottom-line question.
Yes, California voters expressed outrage at the tripling of the car tax, a primary reason that voters signed petitions forcing a recall election. So far, so good.
But consider California's plight during the five-year tenure of the state's incumbent and now-threatened Governor Gray Davis. During the so-called energy crisis, rather than support legislation for true deregulation, which would have resulted in -- at least temporarily -- sticker shock for tax-weary consumers, he dipped into the state's fund and spent billions of dollars purchasing power to prevent Californians from facing higher energy prices. Eventually, despite the governor's promises otherwise, Californians did, indeed, pay more energy prices, but the governor's spending cushioned the increases, while simply deferring the bill in other direct and indirect ways.
Meanwhile, the legislature doubled and tripled Workers' Compensation taxes, passed the paid Family and Medical Leave Act, and continued spending well above the state's growth rate plus inflation.
After Davis' five years in office, Californians face a budget deficit of nearly $40 billion. Are Californians upset about taxpayer-funded programs that should not be paid for by taxpayers, or are Californians simply upset that the state treasury lacks the funds for the programs that they, indeed, do support?
For example, even now, the California legislature debates a bill mandating that all employers, with as few as 20 workers, who don't already offer health care insurance, must now do so. Davis intends to sign it. And Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, the only name Democrat on the "replacement" part of the ballot, recently outlined his tax-and-spend economic plan to "save California." It includes increases in state income taxes on the so-called "rich," the top 4 percent of taxpayers. As for the car tax, Bustamante intends to repeal it, but only up to a car valued at $20,000 or less. He also wants to slap a $1.50 sales tax on cigarettes.
Does Governor Gray Davis now repent the spending? Please. At a recent "debate" (he sat on a stage where reporters and regular citizens asked questions), he vaguely conceded "mistakes," but then defended increases in education and health care. He then incredibly charged that Republicans "would rather shoot their mothers than raise taxes."
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