K. Lloyd Billingsley - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research
Billingsley is Editorial Director for the Pacific
Research Institute and has been widely published on topics
including on popular culture, defense policy, education reform,
and many other current policy issues. [go to Billingsley index]
Taxes by Ballot?
Nice sounding liberal tax grabs...
[K. Lloyd Billingsley] 4/27/04
Teachers Association had been up to their usual business of
resisting reform, and
plotting to raise taxes through yet another ballot measure,
the "Improving Classroom Education Act." Then on
April 8 the CTA withdrew its initiative, to the benefit of
both students and taxpayers.
The CTA measure would have raised commercial
property tax rates from one percent of the value of the property
to 1.55 percent
- a 55-percent hike. The proposal sought to raise $6 billion,
a lot of it for a system of universal pre-school, another bad
idea. But this was not the measure’s only flaw.
Bee columnist Peter Schrag, generally
a faithful apologist of the educational status quo, called
the measure a "blatant
piece of single-interest ballot box budgeting," and "so
riddled with problems that it deserves the ripping it’s
likely to get if it makes it to the November ballot."
Mr. Schrag noted that the measure lacked accountability
and would likely get gobbled in salary and benefit hikes, a "fat
windfall" for teachers who are "already the highest
paid in the country." The kids, the parents and the community,
he added, "get little in return."
Though it pulled the measure, a move it denied until the end,
the CTA did reveal that it likes the idea of higher taxes and
is oblivious to the reality that tax hikes on business harm individuals.
Small business would have been hit particularly hard. But the
withdrawal of the measure by the CTA, though welcome, is no reason
for Californians to sound the all-clear. Two other measures on
the ballot would also hike taxes.
A second measure would slap a three-percent surcharge on phone
calls and use the money to pay for emergency-room care. A casual
perusal of a phone bill will reveal that calls are already subject
to a number of fees. The California Healthcare Association pulled
out of the coalition backing the measure.
A third measure, backed by Assemblyman Darrell Stenbert and
a network of mental-health clinics, would increase the income
tax on millionaires by one percent. The backers expect this to
be more palatable to voters but that may be a miscalculation.
On March 2, voters rejected Proposition 56, which
would have made it easier for legislators to raise taxes. Last
anti-tax candidate for governor won. The pro-tax candidates lost.
Most Californians are now aware that many legislators consider "the
rich" to be anyone who owns a home, an automobile, and is
During the 1990s, the state attempted to tax
editorial cartoons as though they were works of art purchased
privately in a gallery.
The "laugh tax" got shot down, but not before enlightening
voters to the insatiability of state greed.
The CTA withdrawal of its $7-billion gambit showed that even
the shock-troops of the pro-tax movement have at least some inkling
that voters are not exactly fond of giving yet more money to
a wasteful state. The phone-tax boosters may opt to withdraw
their measure. By most accounts, the mental-health measure is
the most likely to reach the ballot. But at that point, the voters
In a bloated high-tax state like California, there is no reason
anyone should have qualms about voting against higher taxes.
When in doubt, follow the CTA and withdraw support for high-tax
2004 Pacific Research Institute