WatchSonoma Watch

GUEST OPINION: Now is not the time to raise taxes

Daniel Drummond

Daniel A. Drummond is the new executive director of the Sonoma County Taxpayers’ Association.

Anyone not living under a rock these days is well aware of the financial straits facing state and local governments.

Teachers and public employees laid off or furloughed, fundamental government services such as health care, child care, senior services, veterans services, services for the poor and disabled, primary, secondary and higher education, parks, recreation, roads — you name it — all have been eliminated or reduced to skeletal remains. And while blame for the current malaise may be laid at many a doorstep from Wall Street to the union halls, the response we increasingly hear from Sacramento is that more taxes is the answer.

Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing yet another ballot initiative seeking to cajole the voters of California into approving more tax increases. The governor’s current effort is a reincarnation of past efforts and focuses on across-the-board sales tax increases as well as income tax increases on the so-called wealthy.

While the fairness of the current tax regime may no doubt be questioned, more troubling is the fear-inducing campaign coming from the governor seeking to scare voters into approving his latest proposal.

“Hike taxes or cut schools” is the bold, front-page headline announcing the governor’s recently released budget plan. There can be no doubt that substantial reductions in education as well as other government services have been meted out the past couple years, but missing from the governor’s message is that those reductions are merely the low-hanging fruit. Ignored thus far in the governor’s plan and the resulting media coverage, or given lip service only, are the crushing burdens placed on government finances by unfunded and overly generous public employee pensions or the wasteful redundancy of numerous boards and commissions serving largely as political patronage positions for termed out legislators.

By threatening further cuts to high-profile services such as education and parks, or to services for the poor and disabled, the governor and the media in complicity seek to create a sense of fear through the use of false choices.

In order to avoid a confrontation with public employee unions upon whose support the governor depends, or eliminating wasteful boards and commissions used to reward other supporters, the governor instead presents us with the false choice: increase taxes or cut schools. If only it were that simple.

Framing the issue is, of course, the first step in any political campaign, and credit must be given to the governor for reducing to five simple words a concept as involved and complicated as state finance. And while many of us find such simplistic expressions insulting, it is a sad reality that most voters are disengaged from the political process and thereby influenced by such fear-inducing simplicity.

Rather than addressing real reform of our wasteful spending habits by acknowledging the finite amount of funding available for the provision of government services and establishing priorities as to what services we really want or need and the level to which we are willing to fund those services, we are instead presented with the false choice to hike taxes or cut schools. The governor and the media do us all a disservice when meaningful discussion of serious matters is supplanted with jingoistic expressions of simplicity and fear.

Such, of course, is the nature of politics and headline writing. It is my wish for the new year that we rise above the rhetoric and false choices in order to confront the very real problems before us.

19 Responses to “GUEST OPINION: Now is not the time to raise taxes”

  1. Dan J Drummond says:

    Oh, and thank you for not making me join Facebook to comment!

  2. Dan J Drummond says:

    Increase the tax on those who make over $200,000 per year.

  3. Just Me says:

    If I pay more taxes then I cannot afford to take care of myself and then I will have to go on “The System”.

    Oh Wait! This is what they want! For everyone except the Elites to be on “The System” so they can control our every move, every action, and remove every firearm from our homes so we MUST depend on them to take care of us – which they so poorly do now!

    I don’t think so! Just Say NO to more taxes!!!

  4. Pinko Be Silent says:

    And let’s keep in mind,

    People and businesses aren’t leaving California because this state isn’t spending enough money.

    Let’s fight any tax hike and starve this beast.They need to start cutting.

  5. mockingbird says:

    Get Real-I will add we pay all kinds of regressive taxes to make up for the property tax shortfall. We have parcel fees added along with other fees added onto our property tax bills. We have build business developements to bring in more sales taxes. Sales taxes are high to make up for the property taxes we no longer get.

  6. mockingbird says:

    Get Real-it was a boon for some. But those buying homes now are suffering for it. It all has to be equitable. Nobody is talking about changing the law for homeowners at this point, but they are talking about changing the law for corporations who REALLY BENEFITTED. The law was written for big corp, sold as a benefit for homeowners. Now business pays LESS and homeowners pay MORE in property taxes. The burden shifted to homeowners with the more recently purchased homeowners bearing the biggest burden.

  7. Dogs Rule says:

    I’ll never vote for new taxes ever again. They lie, cheat and steal with my hard earned money and I have zero confidence this will ever change.

  8. The Hammer says:

    I guess I’ll vote for cutting schools cause I’m not willing to give another cent to the State of California.

  9. Commonsense says:

    California is not “undertaxed” by any means and we’ve seen increases in both income taxes and other taxes/fees in recent years. While the percentage of increases isn’t overwhelming, it does point to a basic problem with the theory that increasing taxes will equate to more money or less cuts for education and other programs. Education isn’t underfunded, receiving more then half of all general funds. Check out the State Franchise Board stats and the States own budget stats, it doesn’t add up. Our big problem is how we are spending our dollars, obviously not very effeciently or effectively. Between maintaining debt payments, government services and programs, etc. there is no real positive effect of a tax increase. In fact, our own controller indicates a increase will likely decrease revenue long term. Take a look at the state government listings, the shere number of listed agencies and dept. is overwhelming. We need to clean house, return to basics and then see where we are before we start just handing over more money into the abyss. And I agree with one of the past posts regarding illegal immigration, it’s a costly proposition to provide many services (language, welfare, etc) to those not here legally (many don’t pay income tax whether due to their status or because of their income level) and it does increase the burden on the rest of the community.

  10. Get Real says:

    Mockingbird! Prop 13 My mother and Mother-in-law; when they died in 2006 where in homes they bought in the late 50′s. Thank God for 13, their property taxes were @ $1k a year. They both survived on their SSN @ $1800 @ Month. Their house were assessed @ $700K when they died. Without 13, their property taxes alone would been over $8K @ year.

    So stop B—ching about this. Brown is another tax and spend liberal!

  11. Jackson says:

    We already are paying more taxes, David. CA has the highest sales taxes in the nation at 8.25% and the 2nd highest gasoline sales taxes in the nation at 35.3 cents per gal. I think many would be OK with an increase if we could see more reasonable efforts increase the contributions or to cut the salaries and pensions of State workers. Jerry’s plan for this does not go anywhere near where it needs to go.

  12. GAJ says:

    My error, the sweetheart deal Brown handed down to the Prison Guards was in Spring of last year.


  13. GAJ says:

    The grotesque sweetheart deal Brown handed out to the Prison Guards earlier this year speaks to his hypocrisy.

    Keep lavishing ever growing benefits to political puppet masters like Prison Guards, Public Safety and management at the expense of the weakest is Brown’s mantra.

    Show us some real belt tightening in those areas and then we can talk about higher taxes.

  14. mockingbird says:

    The reason communities are hurting for funds is because of Proposition 13. It is UNFAIR to homeowners since those that have bought their homes a long time in the past pay property taxes substantially less than those who have bought their homes more recently. One has a bigger tax burden than the other even though the value of their homes might be equal. It is unfair overall. There are rich people with mansions who pay LESS in property taxes than a middleclass homeowner in a lower value tract home.
    But worse is the break given to big business. THIS LAW WAS WRITTEN FOR BIG CORPORATIONS. They can merge and change ownership and won’t have their property tax rate increased. Before Prop 13, businesses paid more than homeowners in Property tax overall. Since Prop 13 was passed business now pays about about 1/4 to 1/3 of what homeowners pay today. The BURDEN HAS SHIFTED FROM CORPORATIONS TO HOMEOWNERS. It was sold as a boon to homeowners but was really a gift to corporate interests.
    AT LEAST, the business portion of the law has to be adjusted to make it MORE FAIR to homeowners. Corporations, AGAIN, laughed all the way to the bank. And posters on WSC continue to say that businesses just CAN’T GET A BREAK.
    Oh, and let’s talk about oil extraction taxes. EVERY STATE in the union EXCEPT California charges the oil industry an extraction tax. Even anti tax Texas charges an oil extraction tax. California is an oil state. We should join the other states and charge the oil companies. Afterall we pay MORE THAN almost every other state for our gas.
    Furthermore, let the rich pay a sales tax on their yachts. Buy a little recreational fishing boat and pay a tax. Buy a yacht and you don’t have to. Who benefits? The rich AGAIN.

  15. Jim says:

    It makes me sick that people are so stupid. “Cut schools or raise taxes”. That’s it?!?!

    How about cutting the MASSIVE administrative waste in the school system?

    How about cutting services to illegal aliens? $10 billion + per year

    How about cutting the bloated government?

    How about cutting the pensions?

    How about cutting the pay for prison guards?

    How about eliminating the anti-business policies that drive businesses and jobs out of CA?

    Can’t do that. Can’t “cut schools”. So I guess we’ll just raise taxes, driving more earners and businesses out of the state.

    Free information…Max out your 401k, Traditional IRA and/or SEP to shelter as much money as you can from the leeches in Sacramento. Then MOVE before you withdraw it, avoiding funding the criminals in CA politics.

  16. Lets be Reasonable says:

    Myth No. 2: Taxes have gone through the roof in California.
    Fact: They’ve been held down. Even if Brown’s tax hikes are approved by voters, the state tax burden will be basically what it was back when Ronald Reagan was governor in the 1970s.
    It is time to stop raiding local governments, education and the poor to balance the State budget.

  17. Follower says:

    So let me get this strait Jerry…

    You have already cut all the excess from Government to the point were you are left with no choice but to cut School Funding?


    Is THAT what you’re telling us?

    ALL the remaining Government “Departments & Agencies” and all their staff & facilities are FAR MORE important than EDUCATING OUR KIDS?

    Really Jerry?


  18. Billy C says:

    Well Said

  19. David J. Spencer says:

    Daniel A. Drummond is a professional tax nay-sayer–he will never, ever, in his life-time say there is a good time to raise taxes. Truth is, there is more value to the tax dollar than to any other dollar that we spend. In return for our tax dollar we get the strongest military in the world, we get schools, we get….

    The list is without end, and people should shaddup & pay more taxes.