Sunday, January 15, 2006

California state budget and tax issues aired

The incomprable Mike Hiltzik has an excellent dialogue with Armed Liberal about California's state budget and tax problems (see the posting and the comments). It begins snarky between the two of them, but fairly quickly gets to policy issues and ultimately a respectful dialogue.

I have long said California needs the following reforms. I call it the Nickel Reform as it consists of five proposals and constitutes my "five" cents:

1. Change Prop 13 only as far as removing the protections to commercial property, i.e. have periodic assessments of commercial property on fair market value. This will end most of the boom/bust cycle that burdens California state budget planners when income tax revenues continue to swing wildly depending upon how the state or national economy is doing.

2. End the requirement of 2/3rds needed to pass a budget or raise income or sales taxes. 60% is a decent compromise, but it would destroy the neanderthal putzim like Tom McClintock, who. in all his years of serving in the State legislature, has not come up with a budget plan of his own that is worth a damn. All he does is say "No" and it gums up the works every year.

3. Restore the top marginal rate of 11% for state income tax. If it was good enough for Republican governors like Deukmeijian and Wilson, it is good enough for the rest of us.

4. The best way to start cutting the proverbial waste and fraud: California must revisit all of the proposition measures that force a certain percentage of the budget to be spent on prisons and schools, whether in good times or bad. This creates an incentive to spend as opposed to an incentive to serve the public. A grand compromise would be a combination of #1 and #2 and this reform.

5. Also, it might be a damned good idea if we said to the public employees: Now that most of you are unionized, what is the point of a separate institution known as the Civil Service Commission? We should not have both. Let's have public employees make their choice: Civil Service Commission or unions. And to those in the public employee sector, if I may give you a hint, there's a clear choice here...cough, cough, keep the union, cough, cough. This reform of cutting out the Civil Service Commission saves mucho dollars and doesn't adversely affect the most vulnerable population in our state.

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