Fantastic column from veterano George Skelton in today’s Los Angeles Times. While the tax warriors in the state have furiously and proudly battled against any sort of tax increase, Californians have watched previously vaunted educational programs and other services drift into serious dysfunction. Skelton writes that the car tax increase by then-Governor Gray Davis (issued to shore up sagging state revenues thanks to the declining economy) triggered the emergence of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political campaign, which promised an immediate return to the lower rate.
Schwarzenegger’s first act as governor in late 2003 was to knock the tax back down to 0.65%. It was probably his biggest financial mistake, certainly one from which the state never has recovered.
Skelton is dead on when he describes the choice voters will have to make in the coming years: low taxes or education, transportation, and other services. Seems like an easy choice to me, though.
A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found a majority of voters saying they supported hiking taxes for K-12 schools, higher education and programs for the needy. But 61% opposed increasing the vehicle license fee.
These days, Californians think that ludicrously low car taxes — and all property taxes — are their birthright.
We used to think that our birthrights were affordable higher education, smooth transportation systems and beautiful state parks.