Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist
Platt Liebau is a senior member of the CaliforniaRepublic.org
editorial board. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator
based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News
MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety
of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate
and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the
first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. [go
to Liebau index]
to You by the Spending Lobby...
Proposition 56 Deserves to Go Down in Flames
[Carol Platt Liebau] 3/1/04
may be many important issues to be resolved on the ballot next
Tuesday, but none holds more significance for California’s
long-term well-being than Proposition 56. Despite the innocuous-sounding
name, the “Budget Accountability Act,” its actual
effect would be to eliminate the protections first offered
by Proposition 13. Specifically, Proposition 56 would reduce
the two-thirds legislative vote requirement to raise state
taxes down to 55%.
Just a cursory examination
of the proposition’s supporters
is enough to prove Aristotle’s Principle of Causation: “Things
act according to their Nature.” Proponents of the change
include the AARP, Health Access and unions that purport to represent
educators, school employees, firefighters and health care workers.
The list is unintentionally revealing. All these groups share
a certain penchant for drawing substantial sums of money from
the state treasury. And so any legislative provision that guarantees
a larger state piggy bank, whatever the cost to their fellow
Californians, is good news for them.
Major funding for
the “Budget Accountability” proposition
has been provided by the California State Council of Service
Employees Political Issues Committee and the California Teacher’s
Association Issue Political Action Committee (PAC). Ah, state
workers and teachers’ unions – we all know what sticklers
those two groups are for “accountability”!
Cynically, in their
advertising, proponents of Proposition 56 have studiously avoided
discussing the major impact of their
initiative – that is, of lowering the threshold for tax
increases. Instead, they have sought to emphasize the provision
that calls for legislators’ salaries to be withheld so
long as they fail to pass a budget on time. But taking those
two provisions together makes the likely result of the measure
crystal clear. Legislators will never have to forgo their salaries
when it becomes easier to balance the budget without making tough
choices about spending cuts. Instead, budgets will be impressively
timely – and filled with tax increases!
In just the last legislative
session, state politicians proposed nearly $65 billion in tax
increases. More than 100 bills to raise
taxes (or to impose “surcharges”) were set forth –on
state income, junk food, soda, diapers, child care, telephone
service, beer, and insurance, just to name a few. The only limiting
factor was a legislator’s imagination. No wonder USA
Today ranked California as the worst-performing state in an analysis
of how all 50 states manage their budgets. Is there anyone out
there – who’s not supping at the government trough – who
really thinks this kind of profligacy should be rewarded?
For the first time
in years, with the election of Governor Schwarzenegger, there
has been some hope that fiscal sanity can prevail – that,
just maybe, the kind of heedless, unaccountable spending by an
arrogant legislature resulting in a $38 billion dollar deficit
could actually be controlled. But approving Proposition 56 would
offer an escape hatch to legislative big spenders – and
allow them to continue spending without a shred of accountability,
or even a single Republican vote.
The people of California
deserve better. They already fund state and local government
generously, to the tune of $130 billion
per year. As it is, California’s corporate income tax burden
exceeds the national average by a full 40% -- and is significantly
higher than that of the other western states with which California
competes for businesses and jobs. Loading up already-struggling
businesses with even more taxes, as even as they grapple with
skyrocketing worker’s compensation, excessive compliance
costs and deteriorating transportation infrastructure is, perhaps
the best way to ensure that California won’t continue to
be ranked forty-ninth in the nation (ahead of only Mississippi)
for its business climate. If Proposition 56 passes, it’ll
be ranked fiftieth.
State employees and
the spending lobbies that surround them enjoy a luxury that
is not available to any other class of workers – the
ability to seek and spend ever greater sums of money without
ever being held responsible for the results (or lack thereof)
of past spending sprees. Perhaps they should come back with the
Budget Accountability Act – when they’ve figured
out how to introduce some real accountability into the budgeting
process, and the spending that follows.
Until then, Proposition 56 deserves to be DOA.
CRO columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst and
commentator based in San Marino, CA.