Taxes bug me. Of course, taxes bug most people. What bugs me much, much more is sneakiness. Take note, Californians! On May 19, 2009, you will be asked to vote on six propositions that affect the State budget. These propositions were created as a "compromise" to get the budget passed in California this year.
First, because few writers (and definitely none in the mainstream media) can write without infusing their text with their own biases, let me lay mine out. Fiscally, I'm conservative, and believe in smaller, more streamlined government. I'm not opposed to helping people when they are down (which is why I donate to charities), but I don't believe that training the populace to rely on handouts from the government will improve our nation. In fact, just the opposite. Moreover, I believe that, just like you and me, governments (fed, state and local) should have to live within their means. When I run out of money, I don't demand more from my employer. I decrease my expenditures. Why shouldn't the legislature? When I plan my monthly budget, I put the most important items first (mortgage, utilities, food, etc.) and when tough times arise I cut back on luxuries and non-essential items (movie tickets, dinners out, alcohol, etc.). Why then, should we permit our legislatures to plan for their pet projects first, second and third, and then when money ends up short, why do we allow them to scare us with their "we'll have to lay off teachers, we'll have to fire policemen, we will have to pink-slip firefighters!" No, no, no!! If those are critical assets, you plan for them first, not last!!
Let's get back to the California Props. Most voters will get their information on props from the State's ballot Voter Information Guides mailed out prior to the election. However, in a super-sneaky trick on the voters, the State failed to point out in the VIG the negative aspects of the Props. The only way to get the full picture of what these propositions do is to slog through the legislative text of the proposals. You can get that here:
http://www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov/pdf-guide/text-of-proposed-law.pdf. Read it. Read it again. Keep reading it until you understand what they are trying to do to us.
Prop 1A is being touted as a "spending cap" to prevent the legislature from spending more money than it has. There are constant radio ads lately bemoaning the "thousands" of pink slips received by teachers (by the way, those "pink slips" are required by union contract, and are not layoff notices -- they simply say that a teacher is "eligible" for a layoff -- past experience in California shows that only a tiny fraction of the teachers who receive these pink slips will be actually laid off), and how horrible it is, and how "budget reform" is needed. What the commercials don't tell you is the following:
1) Prop 1A will INCREASE YOUR TAXES for AN ADDITIONAL TWO YEARS! An analysis by the State Legislative Analysts Office confirms this. (http://www.lao.ca.gov/ballot/2009/1A_05_2009.pdf, see pages 5, 6) As part of its budget "compromise," the California Legislature initiated the largest tax hike in the history of the US. It raised state Personal Income Taxes for 2009 and 2010 by 0.25% (and reduced the tax credits for dependents), doubled the Vehicle License Fee, and increased California sales tax to 9% (in addition to whatever county and local sales tax is imposed on you). These tax increases are currently slated to end after 2010, but if you vote yes on Prop 1A, they will not end until after 2012. Even the Voter Information Guide fails to point this out. Californians already pay the highest income tax in the nation, yet it's still not enough! Californians already pay the highest sales tax in the nation, but it's still not enough! Well I say ENOUGH! This is a $16 billion dollar tax increase that is being deliberately hidden by the State. The Voter Information Guide, which is supposed to provide all relevant information about the propositions, deliberately omits this fact! This is sneakiness taken to new levels!
2) If the legislature hits the spending "cap" and wants to spend more money, they CAN do it. "How is that?" you ask. "After all, it's a spending cap!" The text of Prop 1A allows them to do it, as long as they simultaneously raise taxes. So if they want to spend more of your money, they have to tax you to do it. Wow, what an amazing "reform" in our process!!
3) The budget each year will be based on the revenues from the previous 10 years. Thus, in a recession year that follows flush years, the budget will be much higher than the revenues the State will collect. What does that mean? More tax increases (because the State won't deny itself the pleasure of spending all the money the budget allows for!). In a flush year following several recession years, the budget will be much smaller. This makes no sense. The budget should be based on a reasonable forecast of tax revenue.
4) Finally, while Prop 1A purports to create a "rainy day fund" to provide for years when need exceeds tax dollars (kind of like your personal "emergency" savings account), Prop 1B, if passed, would require schools to be paid $9.3 billion out of the "rainy day fund," regardless of the state's financial situation. (http://www.lao.ca.gov/ballot/2009/1A_05_2009.pdf, see page 4)
We all know these are difficult times. We all know people who have been laid off, are unemployed or underemployed, or are just struggling to get by. This affects all of us, yet the State couldn't even be honest about it. They (and the special interest groups who benefit from the props) are spending millions of dollars on advertising to get you to vote yes on Props 1A-1F. We cannot let them do this. Vote NO on Props 1A through 1F. Encourage your family, friends, and coworkers to vote NO! Let people know what the legislature is trying to pull over on us. Enough is enough.
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