Skelton misleads on car tax

June 28, 2012

By John Seiler

Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton recently was feted by liberal journos and others for reporting on California for 50 years. Actually, usually he’s been just a rubber stamp for the centralized tyranny known as the California government.

His latest outrage: Misrepresenting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cancelling the car tax increase back in 2003, one of the few things Arnold right. The much-awarded Skelton wrote an article ridiculously titled, “Overspending isn’t California’s problem: Face it: More budget cuts won’t pay for everything the state needs.

“Everything the state needs” means the greedy pay, perks and pensions going to his buddies in the government. Here’s the misleading part:

“Sacramento, for example, still is spending way too much money on former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s showboating car tax cut.

“Yes, that crowd-pleasing slash in the vehicle license fee — which had existed for many decades without a public fuss — resulted in a $6-billion annual spending burden on the state treasury. That’s because the car tax revenue had gone to local governments. When Schwarzenegger cut it in 2003, he kept sending an equivalent amount of money to the locals anyway.”

“spending … money” on a “tax cut”? What a revealing phrase. Skelton assumes that government owns you and everything you produce; you’re its slave. It then “spends” money on education, roads, prisons, cops, pensions, etc. — and “spending” includes dribbling back to you a little of what it stole from your slave labor to use for your own family.

What happened

Now, here’s what really happened, as Skelton should remember, or as anyone with an Internet connection can find out:

1. Gov. Gray Davis illegally tripled the car tax. Then-state Sen. Tom McClintock wrote at the time, right in Skelton’s own L.A. Times in 2003 just after Arnold was elected to replace Davis and canceled the illegal tax increase:

“Five years ago, a series of legislative enactments reduced the car tax by two-thirds. Local governments, which pay for firefighters, never lost a penny of funding because the law fully reimbursed them from the state’s General Fund. The law even provided that if the state should go bankrupt, funds would still flow to local governments through a temporary, month-to-month car tax increase directed by the state controller.

“In June, Gov. Gray Davis tripled the car tax by fiat while cutting off reimbursements to local governments for three months. His action cost cities and counties $1 billion in lost revenue and cost motorists an additional $4 billion in unauthorized taxes. The only time local governments have lost money from the car tax is when Davis raised it.

“The official legal office of the Legislature has already opined that not one of the conditions required to raise the tax has been met. If the courts agree, the illegally collected tax — plus interest — must ultimately be returned, blowing a new multibillion-dollar hole in a future state budget.”

2. Davis’ illegal tripling of the car tax was the casus belli of the recall against him. Other factors, such as his dithering during the 2001-02 electricity crisis, contributed to his being booted from office. But his illegal tax increase enraged voters during that summer of their discontent. Still, only 55 percent voted to send him into retirement. Without his carjacking of car drivers, Davis probably would have beaten the recall.

3. Schwarzenegger won the recall election on a strong promise to rescind the illegal car tax tripling. Shouldn’t politicians keep their promises? He never would have won the recall with that promise, because Davis, as noted, would have stayed in office. And Arnold’s solemn pledge to “terminate” the illegal tax increase guaranteed he would win first place among the replacement candidates.

4. If Arnold had not rescinded the illegal car tax, he would have started his new governorship by breaking the pledge that bonded him to voters, possibly sparking his own recall. Of course, Arnold ended up being a terrible governor because, after two years, he started listening to liberals like his wife, Maria, and Skelton. He imposed the dictatorial, anti-jobs AB 32 in 2006. And in 2009, he imposed a record $13 billion tax hike that slammed the state economy during the start of the weak recovery.

5. If Arnold had not rescinded the car tax, McClintock was readying both court challenges and a papers to file a repeal initiative, which would have passed overwhelmingly in 2004. So the tax hike would have disappeared anyway.

6. By canceling the tax cut, Arnold demonstrated — for two years, anyway — that it was safe again in California to run a business or be a worker who paid taxes; that people like Skelton wouldn’t automatically be allowed to paint a bull’s eye on you back just because you held a job an drove a car.

7. The middle class was given a little reprieve. But Skelton doesn’t care about the middle class, the folks who toil long hours for their families and pay the massive taxes to live in the most dysfunctional state in the land just because it has good weather. And Arnold, after he became Benedict Arnold in 2006, also didn’t care about the middle-class folks who mistakenly put him into power in 2003 instead of the great McClintock.

Fortunately, Californians no longer need to depend on the old, Main Stream Media, like the L.A. Times and Skelton. Alternatives like CalWatchDog.com now exist to let people know what’s really going on.

 

12 comments

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  1. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 28 June, 2012, 06:31

    If you USE….you pay…..only fair!

    Reply this comment
  2. Donkey
    Donkey 28 June, 2012, 07:59

    The car tax is, simply put, a money grab that does nothing but enrich the coffers of the RAGWUS. It builds nothing, it creates nothing, it steals cash that an owner needs to live on, and it is a lie what UH wrote. THe car tax is a property tax, a tax that should be outlawed. 🙂

    Reply this comment
  3. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 28 June, 2012, 08:19

    Supreme court says you pay….we told you your lot in life is worker ant working and gathering for the “village”.

    Reply this comment
  4. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 28 June, 2012, 11:05

    Oh Mr. Pack and Ship– you’re a bad man ! lol

    Reply this comment
  5. stevefromsacto
    stevefromsacto 28 June, 2012, 12:33

    Didn’t want to do this John, but you leave me no choice. AMEN, GEORGE SKELTON

    Overspending isn’t California’s problem

    Face it: More budget cuts won’t pay for everything the state needs.

    SACRAMENTO — It’s budget time in Sacramento, so conservative politicians are dusting off an old shop-worn mantra.

    All together: We don’t have a revenue problem, folks, we have a spending problem.

    OK, there is some truth to that.

    Sacramento, for example, still is spending way too much money on former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s showboating car tax cut.

    Yes, that crowd-pleasing slash in the vehicle license fee — which had existed for many decades without a public fuss — resulted in a $6-billion annual spending burden on the state treasury. That’s because the car tax revenue had gone to local governments. When Schwarzenegger cut it in 2003, he kept sending an equivalent amount of money to the locals anyway.

    Here’s another spending waste: Trying to execute murderers. I’m all in favor of executing these scum, if only we’d do it.

    But we’ve executed a mere 13 in the last 34 years. Meanwhile, according to a major study last year, it costs an extra $184 million a year to house condemned killers on death row, compared to letting them rot in a hole without the possibility of parole. (There’ll be an initiative on the November ballot to end capital punishment in California.)

    Here’s one more example: Paying off Schwarzenegger’s “economic recovery bonds.”

    You may remember. He charmed the Legislature and voters in 2004 into borrowing $15 billion to balance that year’s budget. We’re still paying off those bonds — at double the sticker price, including interest.

    In the new budget, that debt payment will amount to $1.3 billion.

    But regardless of these nutty expenditures, it would be ludicrous to claim that spending is out of control in Sacramento. During the dot-com boom, yes. Now, hardly.

    As a proportion of Californians’ personal income, total state spending will be only slightly higher in the new budget than it was during Ronald Reagan’s final year as governor in 1974. Spending out of the general fund — the state’s deficit-plagued main cash box — will be slightly lower than under Reagan.

    Legislators and governors have been whacking away.

    Compared with the economic peak of budget year 2007-08, current general fund spending is down 16%. True, the Legislature shuffled off some of the general fund burden to other funds. Even so, total state spending is down 2%.

    Don’t think they’ve chopped enough? Then you probably don’t have a kid in public school.

    State funding for K-12 schools and community colleges dropped 20% between 2008 and this year, according to the Finance Department.

    Between 2008 and 2011, according to the legislative analyst, 32,000 teaching jobs were eliminated. Almost all districts reduced their school year; one-fifth of them by a full week.

    Art, music, libraries, counseling, tutoring — all cut, if not eliminated.

    Class sizes have increased in all grade levels.

    And if Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax increase is rejected by voters in November, K-12 schools and community colleges will be slashed $5.5 billion more. That would probably mean an even shorter school year.

    Scare tactic? If you believe that, it’s a bad bet.

    The University of California and Cal State University system also would be docked $250 million each if the tax initiative fails.

    What has happened at California’s once-esteemed, formerly affordable public universities is shameful.

    Tuitions over a five-year period rose 73% at UC; 84% at Cal State. Twenty years ago, they were $2,824 at UC; $1,308 at Cal State. Now students are looking at $12,192 and $5,970 respectively — if the taxes pass.

    Over a four-year span, state funding was cut nearly $1 billion annually each at UC and Cal State.

    OK, somebody should put a lid on excessive compensation for chancellors and presidents and other robed mucky-mucks. But they are not what’s breaking the universities.

    Neither are state pensions busting the state, despite the brouhaha.

    Yes, many local governments are straining under the weight of retirement burdens. But they’re not a significant cause of Sacramento’s red ink. Only 2.4% of the general fund will be spent on pension contributions for state employees. Even a 401(k) plan could cost that much.

    Want more spending cuts? How about parks?

    Good luck trying to find a camping spot at your favorite state park this summer. It’s still not clear how many are going to be shuttered for lack of state funds and how many will be rescued by nonprofits and local people. At any rate, many have been allowed to deteriorate.

    But no group has been pounded more than welfare moms and their sick kids, and the low-income aged, blind and disabled.

    One example: The maximum monthly welfare grant for a family of three is $638. Back 23 years ago when Republican George Deukmejian was governor, it was $694. But only about 25% currently receive the maximum grant.

    SSI/SSP — the federal and state subsistence programs for the aged and disabled — has been reduced to the absolute federal minimum. Grants now are around $860 per month. Whenever the feds sent out an increase in recent years, the state tended to pocket it.

    Medi-Cal payments for the care of poor people are the lowest in the nation. Rates are so low that many doctors won’t even treat the poor. Dental and vision care for adults were eliminated in earlier budget cutting.

    Sacramento doesn’t have a spending problem. Its problem is an outdated, roller-coaster tax system that doesn’t generate enough revenue to pay for what California demands and deserves.

    Reply this comment
  6. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 28 June, 2012, 13:20

    StevefromTaxnSpendCentral, why do you contniue to post these whoppers?

    Reply this comment
  7. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 28 June, 2012, 13:20

    Jojn, Katy-please put an end to the Teddy Steal sock pupet accounts, thank you-the Readership.

    Reply this comment
  8. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 28 June, 2012, 14:38

    Down Wonder Dog….Down…..discourse with the other side is healthy even in a ultra conservative dreamland.

    Reply this comment
  9. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 28 June, 2012, 14:56

    John, Katy, Brian, the Teddy sock puppets keep posting.

    Reply this comment
  10. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 28 June, 2012, 15:10

    StevefromSacto: Thanks for posting that, so people can read Skelton’s fantasies for themselves.

    — John Seiler

    Reply this comment
  11. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 28 June, 2012, 15:15

    StevefromSacto: Also, yesterday — before Skelton’s new column — Dan Walters punctured the whole “not spending as much as Reagan” fantasy that is being advanced by Jerry Brown and Bill Lockyer, and mimicked by Skelton. Doesn’t Skelton read Walters, his superior as a California writer in every way?

    — John Seiler
    ————————–
    Walters:

    One of Brown’s pitches has been that the budget would represent the lowest relative level of spending in decades, just over 5 percent of personal income. And other Democratic political figures echo that theme.

    State Treasurer Bill Lockyer delivered a speech to the Sacramento Press Club last week in which, among other things, he repeated that figure and noted that former Gov. Ronald Reagan’s last budget (1974-75) was 6.02 percent of personal income.

    Could it be that California’s budget is relatively lower now than during the Reagan era? Yes, if you take the very narrow definition that Brown and Lockyer are peddling. No, if you look at the broader picture.

    According to a historic chart maintained by the state Department of Finance, Reagan’s last general fund budget ($8.3 billion) was, indeed, 6.02 percent of $139 billion in personal income at the time.

    The 2012-13 general fund budget ($91.5 billion) that Brown and legislators have agreed to enact is 5.2 percent of today’s personal income, about $1.77 trillion.

    So by those numbers, the Brown-Lockyer mantra is correct.

    However, it’s comparing oranges and apples because the current budget shifts $6 billion-plus in spending from the general fund to a special fund to pay for Brown’s “realignment” of some services from the state to local governments. When special funds (which also include Caltrans, the Highway Patrol, the Department of Motor Vehicles and other large functions) are included, the picture changes.

    With special funds, Reagan’s last budget totaled $10.3 billion or 7.4 percent of personal income while Brown’s 2012-13 budget, including realignment, etc., is $130 billion-plus. That’s 7.5 percent of personal income, slightly higher than Reagan’s number.

    One of Brown’s pitches has been that the budget would represent the lowest relative level of spending in decades, just over 5 percent of personal income. And other Democratic political figures echo that theme.

    State Treasurer Bill Lockyer delivered a speech to the Sacramento Press Club last week in which, among other things, he repeated that figure and noted that former Gov. Ronald Reagan’s last budget (1974-75) was 6.02 percent of personal income.

    Could it be that California’s budget is relatively lower now than during the Reagan era? Yes, if you take the very narrow definition that Brown and Lockyer are peddling. No, if you look at the broader picture.

    According to a historic chart maintained by the state Department of Finance, Reagan’s last general fund budget ($8.3 billion) was, indeed, 6.02 percent of $139 billion in personal income at the time.

    The 2012-13 general fund budget ($91.5 billion) that Brown and legislators have agreed to enact is 5.2 percent of today’s personal income, about $1.77 trillion.

    So by those numbers, the Brown-Lockyer mantra is correct.

    However, it’s comparing oranges and apples because the current budget shifts $6 billion-plus in spending from the general fund to a special fund to pay for Brown’s “realignment” of some services from the state to local governments. When special funds (which also include Caltrans, the Highway Patrol, the Department of Motor Vehicles and other large functions) are included, the picture changes.

    With special funds, Reagan’s last budget totaled $10.3 billion or 7.4 percent of personal income while Brown’s 2012-13 budget, including realignment, etc., is $130 billion-plus. That’s 7.5 percent of personal income, slightly higher than Reagan’s number.

    Expanding the fiscal context even further, when about $5 billion in bond funds and $70 billion-plus in federal funds are included – as the actual budget legislation does – spending in the new budget totals well over $200 billion or close to 12 percent of personal income, which is about the national average of states.

    Read more here:
    http://www.sacbee.com/2012/06/27/4591431/dan-walters-is-californias-budget.html#mi_rss=Dan%20Walters#storylink=cpy

    Reply this comment
  12. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 28 June, 2012, 15:46

    John, you just destroyed Stevie!!! Well done. All bait and switch

    Reply this comment

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