California’s New Tax Revolt

by Robert Cruickshank

Over 30 years ago California was gripped by the “tax revolt,” where the right led a wave of white populist anger at rising tax bills and public services for people of color to begin the long assault on taxes and government.

But that revolt has faded in California, and is about to be replaced by a new tax revolt – one that recognizes taxes, especially on the rich, are actually too low in order to maintain prosperity and the public services that enable the California Dream.

Over at Huffington Post SF I wrote about the new tax revolt. While I’ll make you go over there and read the whole thing, I will give an excerpt:

Tax revolts happen when the public realizes that their dreams of economic security, a beautiful place to live, and a better life for their children are going to be lost unless changes are made to the revenue system. As Californians watch their public services collapse, taking with it the prosperity those services made possible, they are ready to lead a new tax revolt. It will transform the state just as it did in 1978. And this time, it will rebuild the California Dream, rather than destroy it.

This theme has been cropping up a lot lately, as my post explains. Two weeks ago the San Francisco Chronicle examined the high cost of low taxes, and I was quoted there as well:

The higher fees, most notably for state college and university tuition, represent “in effect, a huge whopping tax increase on California families and students,” said Robert Cruickshank, who writes about state politics at the liberal

“You’re starting to see the anger,” Cruickshank said. “You can let your roads collapse, you close fire stations or watch your library permanently shut down, but Californians are starting to realize” they’d be willing to pay higher taxes to keep those services.

As I pointed out last month, the wealthy and large corporations have been making more money but paying less in taxes over the last 30 years. Instead of that money going to make college affordable, provide more people with affordable health care, or maintain our roads and give people alternatives to high gas prices, the money is simply going to the pockets of rich people. No wonder the public is beginning to revolt.

This revolt won’t happen overnight. But neither did the 1970s tax revolt. That one took time to achieve its climactic victories. This new revolt will too. But it is underway. And among its victims will be what is left of the moribund, fringe, and unpopular California Republican Party.

6 thoughts on “California’s New Tax Revolt”

  1. <<<…the moribund, fringe, and unpopular California Republican Party>>>

    Well, maybe.   But it’s hard to see much evidence of that each time we watch Boxer, Feinstein and numerous House members vote Republican despite the (D) by their names.

  2. You’re more optimistic about the outcome of all of this than I am. But I hope I’m wrong and you’re right. What you describe is the worst California I can remember in the 60 years I’ve lived here, and the best possible outcome I can think of.

  3. When you refer to the high cost of low taxes, could you be more specific?  Are you referring to our low, low sales tax rate of 8.25% (which is much higher in many counties)?  It is the highest in the nation.  Indiana comes in second at 7%.

    Are you referring to our low, low income tax rate of 9.3%? This is the rate that people with income over $47,000 pay and (at that income level) is the highest in the nation.  Hawaii and Oregon have 11% income tax rates for those who make more than $200,000 and $250,000 respectively, but except for that, California is at the top of the heap.

    Perhaps you are referring to our low, low property tax rate.  And you would be right.  Our rate is very low compared to the rest of the nation.  Near the bottom.  However, when you consider the relatively high property values our property tax burden is quite high.  In terms of median property tax per home, only 7 states are higher.

    Perhaps you are referring to our low, low corporate income tax rate of 8.84%.  There are 7 states with higher corporate tax rates.  That means that 42 states have lower rates.

    To say that we have low taxes in California is simply incorrect.  We have high taxes, growing fees and declining government services.  I’m as sick as you are of hearing about waste, fraud and abuse.  But I just don’t believe that we are getting good value out of government.  That’s what we need to address.

  4. smoker1 made a great point so I won’trestate it.  But I ask this:  why do you assume that throwing more money at the problem will fix everything?

    Are universities really using there funds efficiently (check their budgets – no).  Would giving them more taxes put them back on track to be an institution of higher learning or keep them down the road they are now which is a business making money off tuition and shoping for govt research aid?

    Will throwing money at roads REDUCE the costs to maintain them or open up an avenue to increase the prevailing wage and non-competitive pricing used by our state.

    Will more spending give us a better bang for the buck when we see private charities that have overhead as low as 4% but government services having overhead well over 60%.

    As California Crackup mentioned, California has avoided reform and fixing itself because just went collapse was close some windfall boom filled the coffers and made the system look like it works again. I’m afraid throwing more money into our government will prevent the serious reform that needs to happen.

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