Jumping the shark: putting taxes before reform

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There is a lot of chatter about all of the new tax measures on the table. But can we afford to pump more money into the same broken system?

A quick scan of the day’s selections on Rough & Tumble reveal a definite trend toward tax talk from both poles of the state:

The Bee, the AP, and the Los Angeles Times are talking about a recently released PPIC poll showing a narrow margin of Californians in favor of Gov. Brown’s tax measure. John Myers has a piece on Capitol Notes entitled “Brown’s Tax Is Ahead, But Why Not By More?” and California Watch put out one called “Survey: Likely Voters Back Tax Increase, Oppose High-Speed Rail

And it’s not just from today. Here are a few from yesterday:

Afterall, the Governor’s measure did make a splashy debut in his budget presentation earlier this year. But even though his measure is gaining momentum, several challengers are weathering the storm and marching toward qualification as well.

As we touched on in our previous post, however, the rush to inject new revenue into state coffers in these cash-strapped times is myopic of the true culprit in California’s budget woes over the past decade: the system itself.

Putting the focus on the revenue reform measures out there is easy because they are high-profile, they are sexy and in the case of the millionaire’s tax measure, they resnoate with the current national ethos on income equality. 

But doing so also constitutes a tacit approval of the past decade. Budgets are consistently delivered late. Annual revenue cycles absent of any performance-based checks and balances have proven unsustainable. Closing gaps means passing the repercussions of overly-optimistic forecasting down to taxpayers now by bumping taxes or later by buying more bonds.

It’s time to think differently not only about our problem-solving approach, but the discourse that sets the debate.

If we allow revenue talk to dominate this election cycle after 10 years of ignoring large cracks in the process itself, we are indeed jumping the proverbial shark, succumbing to niche influence above common sense and inching closer to a decline from which we can’t fully recover.


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