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Raising taxes the best remedy for California's economy?

April 03, 2012|By Jim Newton
  • Molly Munger, a wealthy attorney and civil rights advocate, has spearheaded a thoughtful alternative to Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed tax hikes.
Molly Munger, a wealthy attorney and civil rights advocate, has spearheaded… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

The reaction to my column on Monday was, in one sense, not terribly surprising. A few readers wrote to praise Molly Munger for spearheading a thoughtful alternative to Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax hikes. A few others wrote to suggest that her effort will only make the governor’s plan more difficult to pass. And a bunch wrote to say I’m a yahoo or a “clueless columnist” (several used more colorful language) for arguing that some form of tax increase was needed to help California through its current budget difficulties.

While I’m happy to concede that I’m among those who believes that taxes have to be part of the solution to California’s troubles, there are a couple of factual assertions by those who disagree that are simply wrong. For instance, a number of readers argued that California state spending has increased in recent years. That’s false. General fund spending by the state government has bumped up and down a bit in recent years, but it was $102 billion in 2007-08, and is projected at $85.9 billion in the current fiscal year. So taxes may or may not end up being part of the solution, but they won’t be in lieu of cuts.

The California Legislative Analyst’s website lists the annual expenditures by category.

Second, several readers wrote to suggest that both the Brown and Munger initiatives are doomed because they require a two-thirds vote of the people, and neither is polling above that threshold. That, too, is wrong. Although one reader thoughtfully included an excerpt from the California Constitution, the reader apparently didn’t read it too closely. It states: "From and after the effective date of this article, any changes in State taxes enacted for the purpose of increasing revenues collected pursuant thereto whether by increased rates or changes in methods of computation must be imposed by an Act passed by not less than two-thirds of all members elected to each of the two houses of the Legislature .... " That’s the provision of Proposition 13 that requires legislative tax increases to win a two-thirds majority in the state Legislature. But these are being submitted to the voters, where a simple majority can secure approval.

Last, there was this from one reader: “Now can we start deporting illegal aliens?” And so it goes.


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