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Tax Hikes Fully Rejected in California

by Susannah Kopecky, published

California often gets a bum rap, as an ultra-liberal free-fall of taxation and unrestrained spending. What is often taken for granted is that Californians don't like to follow what is expected, and are known as huge innovators. California is a state of people with no desire to lower taxes?

On Tuesday, May 19 California voters put that myth to bed when they resoundingly defeated five of the six ballot propositions, only approving the one proposition which would prohibit legislators from receiving pay raises in years which are determined to be budget deficit years. Proposition 1F was also the most symbolic of the measures, as the Legislative Analyst had only predicted minor savings to the state. Proposition 1F was approved by nearly three-quarters of voters.

Propositions 1A-1E were roundly rejected, with 1A being defeated nearly 2-1, with a nearly 66% "nay" vote. In fact, propositions 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D and 1E all were rejected by about a two-thirds majority. In a speech on May 20, Governor Schwarzenegger stated, in light of the outcome, that the message from the California electorate was that citizens want the legislators do the work they were elected to do, rather than asking for a continuous stream of tax hikes on citizens:

Well, we have seen loud and clear yesterday from the results that, with an overwhelming majority, the people told Sacramento go and do your work yourself, don't come to us with your problems... And we hear their voice loud and clear. And we will always represent the people; that's what we do. And so we will go and represent their wish that we're going to make those cuts and balance the budget just through those cuts.

Education, health care and prisons may each see cuts in their budgets, according to the governor, as the budget has risen to more than $21 billion. The governor estimated cuts of about $5.3 billion in education spending, in addition to "severe cuts" to the state health care budget. However, with the possibility of federal stimulus funding for state health care, it is not clear at present whether or not federal stimulus dollars may make up for what may eventually be cut. At the same speech, Secretary of Health and Human Services, stated that the Health and Human Services division is "slated for an additional $2.8 billion in reductions."

Proposition 1A was perhaps the most controversial measure, as it would have increased taxes for another two years, to raise an estimated $16 billion, while also forcing the "rainy day" fund to grow in size. The Legislative Analyst's Estimate was not terribly rosy for this particular proposition, noting that even if money was saved, higher spending down the road may actually have eaten into "ongoing spending" resources.

Proposition 1B, regarding switching around funding sources for education, relied on the successful passage of tax increases, in the form of Prop. 1A, and as such, was doomed to failure with 1A. Mercifully, Proposition 1C, also known as the hugely flawed and nonsensical Lottery Modernization Act, was also defeated, again, by about a two-thirds majority. The Legislative Analyst's Estimate had predicted both 1B and 1C to have the unintended consequences of actually making budget problems worse, down the road, while 1D and 1E (very similar in nature and aims) may have paved the way for children's and mental health cuts, with the rather random shifting around of funding sources.

Bully for California, in the words of Teddy Roosevelt. Good for voters: voters sent a clear message that the state legislators are not doing their job (well) if they can still fund plenty of programs with questionable benefits, but only the backs of hard-working citizens who probably never benefit from many of the more excessive and unnecessary programs anyway. The California electorate has paved the way for all other states with excessive tax rates, with additional tax hikes looming on the horizon. Californians can do anything they bloody well please... and that means taking on the political class and challenging public "servants" to trim the fat, do their job, and run a competent operation. There truly is no other place in the world like California... and if current state leaders can't get the job done, the citizens will continue to vote what measures they want, and who they want overseeing them. In the words of Noreen Evans, a Democratic member of the Assembly representing the 7th District, speaking to the AP: "We probably need to go back and do our job."


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