Raising taxes: Why California needs its two-thirds rule [Blowback]
Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., responds to state Sen. Kevin de León's Oct. 18 Op-Ed article on removing the Legislature's two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes, "End minority rule in California." If you would like to write a full-length response to a recent Times article, editorial or Op-Ed, here are our FAQs and submission policy.
State Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) seems to mistake our Golden State for the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg, as he claims California could be returned to prosperity if only it were easier for politicians to raise taxes.
De León's "solution" to California's terrible economy and resulting revenue shortfalls is to eliminate the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases, a taxpayer protection put into place by Proposition 13. Without the two-thirds requirement, the political establishment could raise taxes through a system of one-party rule, in which far-left Democrats impose punishing tax increases without a single Republican vote and even bypass more clear-thinking members of their own party.
A local businesswoman recently told me that the happiest day of her life was the day she and her husband closed down their furniture store and retired. California's high taxes and meddlesome bureaucrats made running their store such a headache that it was no longer worth it. One attorney I know likes to joke that he's a Dr. Kevorkian for businesses, because so many frustrated entrepreneurs retain his help to close up shop, the business version of suicide.
Indeed, in the last decade California lost one-third of its industrial base as factories packed up and moved to more welcoming nations or more welcoming states such as Texas, where pro-jobs policies enabled the state to create more than half the nation's new jobs over the last five years. A survey of CEOs by Chief Executive magazine ranked California the worst in the nation in which to do business; we have the highest sales taxes, the highest gas taxes, the third-highest corporate taxes and energy costs that are 50% higher than the national average. Our unemployment rate is near 12%, the second highest in the nation.
Yet even as overtaxed and overregulated businesses commit figurative suicide, shutting down and laying off California workers, De León thinks the answer is even more taxes. Perhaps as scary as the consequences of higher taxes on job creation is the fact that De León does not understand the basic fact that tax increases are a burden on struggling families, those on fixed incomes and on the small-business owners who are our main driver of economic growth. De León cannot have resources for the generous government services he wants without a healthy economy. He is in effect proposing that the political establishment kill the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg when the Goose is already on life support.
De León also makes the absurd claim that the Legislature's Republican minority thwarts the electorate's will. But when the voters are actually asked if they want higher taxes, they repeatedly vote no. In fact, in 2009 voters rejected by nearly 2 to 1 a $16-billion tax extension proposal that De León still wants to impose. Since 2004, California voters have rejected every tax increase proposal on the ballot.
"The Gipper" may have rolled over in his grave when De León bastardized his famous quote, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," to call the two-thirds taxpayer protection a "Berlin Wall" keeping California from returning to prosperity. De León writes, "Mr. and Mrs. Voter, please help us tear down this wall."
Ronald Reagan addressed sticky-fingered politicians such as De León when he said: "Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other."
De León's article proves Reagan's point.
-- Jon Coupal
Photo: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times