The Corner

Governor Jerry Brown’s California Dreamin’

Raising taxes by billions annually is admittedly a tough sell. But California governor Jerry Brown is really clutching at strings as he campaigns for significant sales- and income-tax hikes.

Levying higher taxes is “fair, it’s moral, it represents the best in our California tradition, and it is critical to maintaining the California dream,” he recently proclaimed.

And now the New York Times depicts him “jump[ing] up from his desk” and “jabbing his pen in the air” because he is “riled over evidence that his ballot initiative to raise taxes and head off billions in education spending cuts might be headed for a potentially catastrophic defeat”:

Three recent polls have shown Proposition 30, as [the tax hike] is known, declining in support since earlier this year. Now, barely 50 percent of likely voters said they planned to vote for it; historically, tax initiatives tend to fail if they fall below 50 percent this close to an election.

Taxpayers have good reason to be wary. The governor and his union allies are marketing the tax hike as a way to save the education system; after all, California schools are facing $6 billion in automatic cuts if voters fail to approve Proposition 30.

But more to the point, the tax hike will fund the hefty pensions of school employees, as Bloomberg’s David Crane explained months ago:

Most Californians would be surprised to learn that 100 percent of education’s share of the tax increase proposed by Governor Jerry Brown will go to pensions instead of classrooms. . . .

Under California law, schools get the first 40 cents of every dollar of state revenue. With the state forecasting new revenue of $7 billion from the tax increase, that means almost $3 billion a year for the schools to use for pensions. … A good start to meeting pension costs, but none of the tax increase will benefit students.

Wager a guess: When Californians ponder the “California dream” or “the best in our California tradition,” they don’t envision putting billions of their hard-earned dollars into someone else’s pocket.


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