by Chris Reed | July 30, 2013 11:00 am
The way that Sacramento beat reporters judge developments is so much different than the way a typical California adult would. Consider what the Los Angeles Times’ Marc Lifsher wrote about the agenda of Gov. Jerry Brown after the Legislature ended its summer break. Notice what is and isn’t emphasized:
“SACRAMENTO — In the closing days of the Legislature last year, Gov. Jerry Brown helped forge a compromise on a sweeping overhaul of the workers’ compensation insurance system and persuaded Democratic and Republican lawmakers to pass it into law.
“Now he is taking on another big challenge: He wants to fix the state’s financially ailing unemployment insurance program, which pays jobless Californians up to $450 a week.
“With one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates for several years, the state has had to borrow money from the feds to keep the program going. Now that the jobless rate has fallen to 8.5%, Brown would like to start paying down a $10-billion debt.
“His administration is circulating a draft bill that would put the system on an even keel by raising payroll taxes paid by employers. ….
“People close to the process say that [Brown aide Marty] Morgenstern is proposing an increase in the amount of wages subject to unemployment insurance taxes from the first $7,000 of annual pay to $9,500 and eventually $12,000.”
Nowhere in the story are we told that polls show many Californians strongly object to higher taxes.
Nowhere in the story are we told about California’s level of taxation relative to other states.
Nowhere in the story are we told how much working Californians would have to pay extra if $12,000 of their income were subject to the unemployment insurance tax instead of $7,000.
All of these details matter. So does the bizarre way California got in this mess. It wasn’t because unemployment has been high — as the LAT strongly and wrongly implies. It was because a dozen years ago, the genius Democrats in the Legislature had the majority of votes to raise unemployment benefits sharply — by 96 percent over four years — but they didn’t have the two-thirds vote needed to raise the payroll tax to cover the additional costs of benefits.
So what did they do? You weren’t expecting competence or sanity, I hope.
“Republicans strongly objected because they thought the big increase was unjustified and that the higher taxes to be imposed on employers to pay for it would be burdensome. … [Nevertheless,] Democrats forced through the benefit hike on a simple majority vote. … The accompanying bill to raise taxes on employers to fund the boost failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds support because of GOP objections.
“The sheer stinking dumbness of this gets even worse. In 2002, the state bureaucrats running the jobless benefits program told The Sacramento Bee this wouldn’t be a problem.”
Shades of CalPERS and SB 400. Math is not a strong suit with state budget officials. That excerpt was from an editorial I wrote last year. Another relevant point from that piece:
“Nevertheless, despite the frequency with which we see such stories, the Sacramento political and media establishment remains resolute in its belief that the real problem with California is Californians – you know, the numskull voters who demand services but balk at paying for them.
“As if voters wanted state employees to be among the highest paid in the nation with pension benefits most Californians would die for. As if voters wanted the number of workers paid by the state to increase by nearly 25 percent since 1997. As if voters wanted the state government to do something as apocalyptically stupid as increasing unemployment benefits by 96 percent without funding the gigantic increase.
“The blame for all these brilliant decisions falls on state leaders and state leaders alone.”
Well, maybe not alone. Some heat should go to the Sacramento media — starting with those who blithely treat proposed tax hikes as if they were something that the public has no opinion about and unworthy of even cursory examination, such as to determine how much they would cost every employed California.
Source URL: https://calwatchdog.com/2013/07/30/46848/
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