By Joe Guzzardi
January 11, 2012
To describe California as on the brink understates the severity of its fiscal crisis. California with nearly 39 million residents has one-eighth of the nation’s population but also one-third of its welfare recipients. More than 1.5 million Californians depend on monthly welfare grants. Accordingly, California’s caseload far outnumbers the rest of the country, with 3.8 percent of the state’s 2010 population receiving welfare benefits.
But now, the moment of truth has arrived. Despite $10 billion in budget cuts last year, Governor Jerry Brown is urging voters to approve a tax on themselves to avoid further draconian reductions in school and senior citizens’ programs funding. As many as ten initiatives that propose tax increases may appear on the 2012 ballot. In addition, Brown’s plan includes a 1 percent income-tax-rate increase for individuals making more than $250,000 per year, a 2 percent rate hike for those making more than $500,000 and an increase in the state sales tax by half a cent to 7.75 percent. As written, the 2012-2013 budgets’ first draft could eliminate 3,000 state jobs and 50 agencies.
According to Brown, his proposals would raise $7 billion. But in ominous news from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, Brown’s tax package would generate only $4.8 billion during the first fiscal cycle. That would mean either deeper cuts or magically generating more state revenue.
Brown must collect enough citizen signatures to qualify his measures for the ballot. Last year, Brown tried unsuccessfully to get his tax package through the legislature. Since a two-thirds majority is required to raise taxes, the Republicans blocked Brown’s attempt.
Under normal circumstances, asking voters to approve taxing themselves is folly. But Brown’s scare tactics are already well underway. Without the new taxes, Brown claims that the state will be forced to make more painful cuts. Brown insists that spending is now at levels not seen since the 1970s, that university funding has been reduced by 25 percent and that support for the elderly and disabled is where it was in 1983.
Since most Californians have been either directly or indirectly impacted by these cuts, it’s possible that they could agree to higher taxes. But other citizens may wonder why they should have to pay more when the state provides so many benefits to illegal aliens and, at the same time, does not even offer a token protest to limit their numbers.
In light of California’s fiscal crisis, Brown’s most recent immigration related actions boggle the mind. In October, Brown signed the California Dream Act which gives illegal immigrant university students access to additional state funding. The LAO estimates that the Dream Act will set taxpayers back at least $65 million during its early years of implementation.
Also in October, Brown signed an E-Verify opt-out bill that makes it easier for aliens to hold scarce California jobs. A. B. 1236 prohibits California municipalities from requiring businesses within their jurisdiction from requiring E-Verify, a federal program that confirms an employee’s right to work. Legal California residents put at risk by Brown’s bill may eventually be forced to apply for the social services which the governor says will be increasingly unavailable.
As it currently stands, Brown prefers to endanger California’s young students’ future by cutting education funding and would rather see senior citizens struggle rather than take a logical and cost effective stand against illegal immigration.
Being California’s governor is Brown’s last stop in politics. The 73-year-old shouldn’t have to worry about the so called “crucial Hispanic vote.” At his age, the time has come for Brown to act for the common good rather than play ethnic identity politics.
Joe Guzzardi is a Senior Writing Fellow at Californians for Population Stabilization. His columns about immigration and other social issues have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]