State tax increases should be accompanied by reform measures 

California has a “single-subject rule” limiting ballot propositions to just one issue. This is to reduce confusion and prevent massive proposals from being enacted.

Thus, it’s no surprise the tax increases on this November’s ballot do not also contain government-reform measures. But there’s nothing stopping the backers of these proposals from endorsing companion legislation designed to soften the burning revulsion that so many people feel for state government, at least enough to allow one or more of the measures to pass.

In fact, I think that’s exactly what voters need to see before they agree to pay more taxes. According to a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, only 56 percent of likely voters favor Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increase proposal, with a 3.4 percent margin of error.

But while his tax proposal teeters on the edge of failure, Brown has decided the “companion” piece to his measure is a shotgun blast right through state education and services funding in the form of $6.1 billion in “trigger cuts” if the taxes aren’t passed. While it’s true that trigger cuts not entirely aimed at education might be needed to deal with the revenue hole left by a failed tax measure, it’s simply not enough. 

We Californians don’t expect our government to be perfect, but if it wants to get more money from us, we have a right to demand that it admit its structural problems and inefficiencies and begin to address them. We need to feel like the government understands that the party is over — that the new revenue won’t be wasted. We need a reform measure as a companion on the ballot.

Such a measure wouldn’t need to cut as much money as the state is also seeking to raise in new taxes, but it would need to demonstrate some admission of fault.

For instance, that vacation payouts of $800,000 for a single employee are not OK. It’s time to actually enforce the cap on vacation accruals. There are 12,199 people earning more than $100,000 per year in state retirement benefits, with the highest topping out at $530,268.24. That is not OK. It’s also time to cap defined benefits at a five-digit salary number and offer a 401(k) for the rest. In January, the California Bureau of State Audits issued a report showing that some 168 of its recommendations for 32 state departments had not been implemented. That is not OK. It’s time to give audits teeth.

Several measures that would make structural changes to state government have been submitted for November’s ballot. But to really appeal to the voters, Brown should endorse a reform bill side by side with his tax measure.

DUI fighter for Capitol?

I was thrilled to learn that our state may soon allow self-driving cars to be tested and operated. Legislation allowing for “autonomous vehicles” was sponsored by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima.

The law cruised through the Senate last week with a unanimous vote and will head to the Assembly in June.
I’m sure the technology will be very welcome in Sacramento, what with so many of our representatives having been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence: Sen. Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield; Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny, D-San Diego; Assemblyman Martin Garrick, R-Carlsbad; and Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina.

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Melissa Griffin

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