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Thursday, February 12, 2009

California Voters: Please Tax Me! Enrich Yourselves!

My friend John Greet has been very consistent for the past few years commenting on various blogs and websites, and now as a regular contributor to the Long Beach Post, that we as citizens deserve the government we get because that is who we elect. And he is right. Unfortunately, the minority must live with the bad decisions of the majority, as they see them, especially in the State of California.

California has a majority of voters registered as Democrat, and a shrinking minority (around 35%) of registered Republicans. With the exception of the Governor’s office, where the personification of a Rino holds office (Republican In Name Only), Democrats control the State of California from local through Federal offices. They were elected by the people, so they rule the people. Up and down the state we are in financial crisis due to the year after year after year increases in spending: new programs, new mandated spending for all levels, more employees, all have added up to budget deficits for public coffers.

It has become somewhat de rigueur to blame the national economic crisis on the budget problems, and to this I say “Bunk.” Particularly in Sacramento, the state was headed into financial crisis before any whiff of trouble was approaching the credit markets and Wall Street. Why? Because state legislators, enabled by our governor, kept spending more and more and more money. It has been well documented that the past several years when state tax revenue increased 20% our elected officials increased state spending 40%--and that is the fault of the national economy how?

So now the legislator and the governor have reached a compromise to balance California’s budget, they did so by raising taxes on the highest taxed people in the country by $14.4 billion per year—for up to five years. The reports say that there would be $15 billion in cuts—which many would take to mean cuts in spending. This is a ruse, spending by the State of California for the coming fiscal year will not go down $15 billion from the year before, in fact it goes up.

How does this happen? A budget is a projection of revenue and spending. If a department is budgeted to receive and increase in funding from $100 million from the current $90 million it receives now and instead the budget is revised to only increase the department’s budget to $95 million then that department can say, “Our budget was cut $5 million.” Sure, but you are getting $5 million more than you did before so your revenue has increased. This is happening all across the budget negotiations, and the $15 billion in cuts is consisted by almost half of it being no reductions in spending but rather cuts in the projected increases to departments and programs.

Only in Sacramento does it make sense to tax taxes, and that is what is in this budget proposal. If you pay the state $1000 in taxes the state is going to tax that payment, a “surcharge”, of up to 5%. So after you pay your $1000 you can add an additional check for $50. Already the highest income tax in the nation, the state of California will now tax its taxes—genius.

Gas prices too high, the highest in the Continental U.S. with the highest taxes at the pump? So what pay more, the proposal adds $0.12 per gallon. Already the highest sales tax in the country add an additional 1% to all your purchases that are taxed—and look for that list to expand.

So where does this $14 billion go? Well most of it will go to state and public employees since payroll is far and away the biggest item on every budget. And how many public employees are losing their jobs because of this budget? How much is the legislator and top level employees of the state seeing cut in their pay? State employees already enjoy more paid holidays than any other workers—currently 14 days off for paid holidays on top of their vacation and sick days. The proposal has deeply upset the public employees’ unions because it has the audacity to cut two of the paid holidays from their calendars, so now they get one paid day off every month on top of their vacation and sick days.

Looking back on my life I realize that perhaps the biggest mistake I made was not going to work for the State or a public entity when I graduated from college in 1984. I would now be approaching twenty five years of service and at the age of 46 be eligible for a very comfortable retirement package and still young enough to start a second career—most likely as a consultant to the state, counties or cities at higher pay than I received in salary. Because of the give aways over the years to the public employees unions they have incredible job security, you almost have to kill someone to get fired and even then the union would file a grievance, lifetime retirement and benefits and guaranteed pay raises as your union dumps millions of dollars into campaign contributions of the Democrats who control all the purse strings from El Cajon to Mendocino.

California voters will not learn their lessons. In 2010 up and down the ballot a majority will vote merely by looking for (D) next to someone’s name, or the name they are most familiar with after being inundated with flyers, postcards, mailers and phone calls paid for by the unions. You don’t think union money matters in California? Ask Jenny Orepeza why she lost to Laura Richardson for a seat in the United States Congress.

So we will continue to be governed by politicians suckling on the union teets for campaign contributions and looking for their next job when they are termed out. We will see more growth in government, more people subsisting on government hand outs, higher payrolls for government workers, and more taxes for the people of California.

We can stop this cycle. Call, write, email, knock on the door of every Republican legislator in Sacramento and tell them if even one of them votes to pass this proposal, or any proposal with tax increases, you will not give the party one cent, you will not vote or volunteer for any currently elected Republican, you will essentially help crash the party in this state (which looks like it has already happened).

We pay and the politicians get re-elected for more junkets, lunches, dinners and royal treatment from those buying their votes. John Greet is right, we deserve it.


John Greet said...

Dennis: Thanks very much for the kind notice. I'm finding it quite a challenge to carry the conservative banner over at since you left but I'm nothing if not tenacious.

As you know, My family and I happen to benefit from my membership in a public employees union. At the tender age of 30 I was fortunate enough to finally make the grade and be deemed qualified to enter a full time law enforcement training curriculum. In short, I worked my butt off to become sufficiently qualified to be offerred the opportunity to work my butt off some more, in a police academy, so I could earn the right to work my butt off some more in service to my community, while sometimes being hit, kicked, spat on, bled on and shot at in the bargain.

All this is to respectfully remind folks that Civil Service employees, and especially Public Safety employees, do indeed derive many benefits and protections by virtue of their jobs...but these benefits are, with little exception, very well earned and deserved.

Neither do I feel the least bit hypocrital when I decry what I believe to be the overt and inappropriate political activities of various public employee unions, while benefiting personally from union membership myself.

My union dues cover my share of the costs of the collective bargaining aspect of my union and the cost of some of the other, more social, activities we are engaged picnics, easter egg hunts and the like...but all public employee union members can, by law, withhold additional funds that would be used by political action committees within their unions.

Suffice to say that my union's PAC doesn't receive a dime from me and it hasn't since the day I learned I could withhold it.

Public employee unions tend to spend millions and millions of dollars supporting and lobbying pro-labor politicians and campaigning for pro-labor legislation. The average pro-labor politician is somewhat left of center whereas I, as a conservative am considerably...right...of that.

Pro-labor legislation, in this day of volumes and volumes of codified laws and court cases that protect and defend people in the workplace, tends to be more about artificially influencing the labor market...through government...than about protecting workers' rights.

Thus I do not contribute to my union's PAC so it can, in turn, support candidates and legislation that I, personally, do not support.

But neither do I apologize for the benefits and the wage level I currently enjoy. These wages and benefits were at once well-earned and honestly bargained for across the negotiating table in the collective bargaining arena. Each of the non-monetary benefits (like additional holidays) my colleagues and I received in contracts past were bargained for in lieu of pay raises.

Absent those non-monetary benefits, my colleagues and I would (should) be receiving considerably more in salary than we do.

Thus when people suggest that we should now have some of those non-monetary benefits taken back, I reply that I'm just fine with that, as long as we receive all of the pay increases, now, that we didn't get before.

If this were to occur, as it rightly should under these circumstances, my lovely wife would be quite happy because we might actually then be able to afford a mortgage in sunny Southern California...

...speaking of which, Dennis...

Sheryl said...

As long as the Republican party aligns itself with fundamentalist Christianity there is not way that any Republican candidate or office holder will ever get a cent out of me.

But back to the budget ...
I think that one thing you left out of your equation is California's proposition system which lets people vote on and legislate budget items (among other things) In many ways we've tied the legislators' hands.

Dennis C Smith said...

Sheryl: Thanks for the comments, and you are spot on about the propositions. California voters use the propositions like credit cards, instead of multiple big screen t.v.s though they "buy" stem cell research, education "products", infrastructure projects that never start.

Regarding the fundamentalist Christians and the GOP, I believe the alignment is vastly over stated by the media and members of the DNC to demonize both. There are certainly many social issues to which there is alignment--and most often where I am at odds with the GOP--but the influence as I see it is not nearly as strong as played up in the media and political pundits. What is your view/opinion on the relationship between Jewish voters and the Democrats? Percentage wise the relationship and the ability to count on the demographic for votes is equal to that of the fundamentalists and the GOP; I might argue stronger since often if a Republican candidate does not adhere to every position the fundamentalists want they will just stay home rather than hold their nose and vote.

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

Sheryl said...

You're timing is a little odd to say that I'm overstating the religious influence on and of conservatives.

When we vote on _your_ marriage we can talk more.

Dennis C Smith said...

Sheryl: I am and have been against Prop 8 and before there was a Prop 8 was writing in favor of gay marriage (see here from May 2007 Prop 8 did not win because of evangelical Christians, and it did not win because of Republicans--both are significant minorities in California and many Republicans such as myself voted against the initiative. Prop 8 won because of the number of independents and especially because of the number of Democrats who voted for the Proposition. Particularly influential were the very strong voting Democratic voting blocks of black, hispanic and jewish voters who voted the Democratic ticket then voted for Prop 8. Without these voters Prop 8 loses. Not helping the cause is that the top of the ticket, Obama and Biden, are against gay marriage as they stated throughout their campaigns and Biden reiterated twice in his debate with Palin. The evangelicals and the strongly-social conservatives in the GOP are a small voting block in California and only affect some local elections where they are concentrated; for any Republican--or issue identified as Republican--to win a statewide election requires significant numbers of independents and Democrats. The protests against the Mormons and evangelicals, while understandable in the emotional aftermath of the election, to me has been misguided as those voters were not going to affect the outcome of the issue, their stances were known. I feel it would be a much better expenditure of funds and resources to go within the constituencies of the Democratic Party that are against gay marriage and educate them, speak with them, humanize the issue and gain their support since they hold the outcome in their ballots.

That speaks to California and Prop 8, for the rest of the country it again crosses party lines for many as to their support or opposition to gay marriage but from what I have read the lines are not nearly as blurry as they became in California in the last election with Obama and Democrats crushing opponents on the ballots and Prop 8still winning.

Finally, not all Republicans are all conservative just as not all Democrats are all liberal--many of us are a mish-mash trying to find how and where we best fit. Preponderance of ideology certainly labels both parties, but not all involved follow lock-step.

I do not want this to come across as my defending evangelicals or any other group for how they voted or who they supported, but rather a look at the demographic voting patterns that caused the passing of Prop 8. I have always deplored the use of Scripture or any religious text as the basis for any political or social issue or stance, especially when it disallows the rights of some that are granted to others.

Thank you once again for your comments and taking the time to read my thoughts.

John Greet said...

Hmm, and yet fundamentalist religious beliefs were woven into the very fabric of this great nation.

From the Declaration: "When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them..." and "with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence"

From the U.S. Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

From the Gettysburg Address: "...that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

From Dr. King Jr: "And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

From President Obama's Inaugural Speech: "We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."

I'm thinking fundamentalist religious beliefs are not so terrible a thing after all. It is when we use such beliefs as an excuse to encourage or to demand that government intrude where government does not belong; where government was never intended to trespass, it is then we should rightly take exception.

Not with the beliefs but, rather, with their misuse.