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Put Brakes on Car Tax Chicanery

September 24, 2000

In the real world, a tax cut is a tax cut is a tax cut. But it's different in Sacramento, where Gov. Gray Davis is making sure that state officials--including himself, of course--get full credit for reducing California's motor vehicle registration fee. Instead of just paying a lower tax, motorists will get a rebate. The cost to the state for mailing out the checks over two years is expected to be $44 million. That's an inexcusable waste of taxpayer money.

Davis' 2000-01 state budget accelerates the motor vehicle license fee reductions first approved by the Legislature and then-Gov. Pete Wilson in 1998. The logical thing is for the Department of Motor Vehicles to send out reduced bills. But logic has little to do with it. Davis wants motorists to appreciate that he and the Legislature are giving them a nice tax break amounting to $2.5 billion over the next two years, or roughly $250 on a car valued at $25,000. Coincidentally, of course, 2002 is an election year during which Davis is expected to be seeking a second term.

Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Northridge) sponsored a bill late in the legislative session to cancel the rebate and to have the DMV just send out reduced bills. The measure passed the Assembly 77 to 0 but was spiked in the Senate on the session's last day, presumably to save Davis embarrassment. What's embarrassing is $44 million in unnecessary spending. The Legislature can and should fix this when it convenes in early December by passing a bill similar to McClintock's.

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