Brown's Magical Mystery Tax Tour

Katy Grimes: As Gov. Jerry Brown prepares to take his tax show on the road this weekend, watch for swooning media coverage and sympathy interviews with teachers, parents and kids who don’t want services cut, or education diminished.

Magical Mystery Tour

If that’s the case, then I agree with Sen. Doug LaMalfa, the Republican who proposed adding a special line on California’s tax form for taxpayers to make voluntary contributions. If people want to contribute more to the state, they now have a way to do it.

For the first stop on the tax tour, Brown is scheduled to visit Riverside and San Bernardino counties. As a prelude to the visit, Republican Sen. Leader Bob Dutton (Rancho Cucamonga) sent Brown a letter outlining the fiscal challenges facing his district and why Brown should perhaps tread lightly while there:

  • 73 percent of the Inland Empire voters opposed extending taxes in 2009;
  • 14.1 percent unemployment rate in Riverside County;
  • 13.7 percent unemployment in San Bernardino County;
  • 242,000 unemployed people in the two-county region

“Your proposed budget does nothing to create jobs and, in fact, threatens many Inland Empire jobs,” Dutton wrote in the letter. “When you ask the voters in my district to hike their taxes by $50 billion over the next five years, please be sure to tell them you plan to increase government spending by $26 billion over the next three years – more than a 30 percent increase.”

Now that’s the fighting spirit and leadership that Republicans in the state are begging for.

Brown is pulling out all the stops to convince voters that tax increases are necessary, but has largely ignored reforms offered by Republicans.

And while I have been critical of Republican opposition to Brown’s one attempt at reform – the elimination of redevelopment agencies – I agree that there is something really fishy about his proposal. I don’t trust that redevelopment agencies will really be eliminated and will instead, just be renamed. I just haven’t yet figured out the scam yet. I agree with Assemblyman Chris Norby that the agencies should just be eliminated and then we can deal with the fallout, should there be any.

My primary reservation is based on Brown’s entire realignment scheme, forcing some state services onto local governments, which will then turn around and undoubtedly try to raise taxes to cover the added costs. And the redevelopment legislation would require cities that try to keep their share of property taxes dedicated to redevelopment, to create new agencies called  “successor agencies.”

As Brown embarks on his Magical Mystery Tax Tour, be wary when he declares that Californians can suffer now or face an greater catastrophe down the road. According to Brown, those are our only choices, and the only way out is higher taxes.

This road show is already taxing my patience. Republicans have been telling Brown that pension reform, union reform and cutting burdensome regulatory restrictions – which are  sending businesses to other states – would more than make up the deficit. The savings can then be used to resolve the state’s debt.

But with the SEIU, the teachers unions the nurses union, California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, CSEA and the CCPOA (prison guards, correctional officers) whispering sweet-nothings in Brown’s ear , it appears that our shadow government is leading this road show, and they don’t want the risk losing members, or the promised opportunities to gain more.

The SEIU represents more than 350,000 state employees, social services workers, court employees, public health workers, school and community college employees, child care workers, university faculty and support staff, and local government employees.

The CTA (teachers union) and California Federation of Teachers represents more than 470,000 school faculty members combined.

The CSEA – California State Employees Association – is made up of 141,000 members.

The California Labor Federation is made up of more than 1,200 AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions, representing 2.1 million union members in manufacturing, retail, construction, hospitality, public sector, health care, entertainment and other industries.

The leaders of both the state Assembly and Senate are from unions, and owe much for their meteoric career escalations to power positions. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, worked for the California State Employees Association for 10 years before running for the Assembly in 1998. Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, a self-described union organizer, worked for both the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 324, and  the California Labor Federation prior to being elected to the Assembly in 2008. Perez also serves as an elected member of the Democratic National Committee.

With nearly 37 million California residents, the union membership numbers still don’t outnumber the 17 million registered voters.

Brown’s Magical Mystery Tax Tour is sure to be a very taxing road show. Voters are tired of taxes and even more tired of the threats of tax increases with every state budget, every year. We’ll see if Brown gets that message or if he blindly goes along with union pressure.

APRIL 8, 2011

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