I hammered George Skelton as hard as I could in December when the L.A. TImes’ columnist wrote that it was “hard to find anyone around the Capitol outside the governor’s office who doesn’t think the promise [to seek voter approval before raising taxes] was wrongheaded.” Uhhhhh …. George? George? George? Have you heard about the majority of Californians opposed to tax hikes? But lookie here: Skelton is dumping on Jerry’s demagogic, nonsensical tax hike ballot compromise the day it is finalized! Did George’s career-long concussion finally wear off?
The Brown-CFT deal would cut his sales-tax hike in half. And it would smack the wealthy more than the governor had wanted — raising state income-tax rates by one percentage point for single-filers earning more than $250,000; by two points for those making more than $300,000; and by three points on earnings exceeding $500,000. Currently, the top rate for million-dollar earners is 10.3%.
The income-tax increases would last seven years, rather than five, as Brown originally proposed. The tiny sales-tax hike would last four years.
The reshaped proposal is bound to be more popular with the electorate than Brown’s original. A larger share of the tax load would be shifted to fewer voters.
But it’s poor public policy. Although it may be satisfying for the majority, smacking the rich worsens a California tax system that badly needs to be overhauled.
The top 1% already pay roughly 40% of the state income tax. This results in an extremely volatile revenue roller-coaster. In boom times, the rich prosper and pour money into the state vault. During periods of bust, their capital gains dwindle and so does the state’s revenue stream. The state suffers budget deficits. Schools, universities and the poor people’s safety net are slashed.
But George still isn’t fully out of the tank. The implication that schools and universities suffer as much as poor people when revenue lags is a crock. The poor are pounded far worse. Why? They don’t have influential unions representing them in Sacramento.
Yet I shouldn’t gripe. After years of knee-jerk support of the Sacramento establishment, George Skelton has been shocked, shocked enough to finally figure out that the establishment maybe really is rigged for public employees, whether on pensions or teacher tenure or “air time” or a million other things.
Maybe, just maybe, after 50 years on the job, George will keep “growing” and end up realizing that California is far more imperiled by the ideologues of the left than the ideologues of the right.