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Jon Fleischman

Broadening The Definition Of A Tax Increase By Editorial Fiat

If you haven’t actually heard fingernails scratching a chalkboard, let me assure you it is a terrible sound that will produce a wince even from the hard of hearing.  With the implementation of a no new taxes budget (aside from that illegal fire serves tax), liberal newspaper editorial boards and columnists are consumed with outrage at the fact that the redistributing of wealth by state government is decreasing and they are especially outraged at Republican legislators for not placing income, sales and car taxes on the ballot – or for just not increasing them through legislative action.  Some of their screeds are the written version of the fingernails on the chalkboard, but it is to be expected, I suppose.  After all, these are the same folks who have been rhetorically brow-beating Republicans, and the two-thirds vote requirement for higher taxes, for as long as I can remember.

In the Sunday edition of the Sacramento Bee, the paper’s significantly left of center editorial board (with nary a Republican amongst them), in a column with more of the same tired rhetoric blaming Republicans for everything, now seeks to brand pending tuition increases for students in the University of California and California State University systems as higher taxes.  They literally say in their editorial: “…higher tuition is another word for tax increase.”

Actually, no its not.  Higher tuition is just what is sounds like – students attending these schools will have to pay more than they were paying previously.  But that does not mean it is a tax increase.  To assert that state taxpayers reducing their subsidy of a state service is a tax increase is outrageous.  That’s like saying that if you cut legislative pay, it’s actually a tax increase for legislators.  Or that reductions it taxpayer funding for state welfare recipients are actually tax increases for those on welfare.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not taking issue with the fact that an increase in tuition to attend these colleges is not costly for those attending.  But I am taking issue with and editorial that seeks to literally redefine the meaning of a tax increase.

Yesterday morning I had a lengthy back and forth with FR friend Jim Boren, Opinion Page Editor of the Fresno Bee over this issue on Twitter (you can see it by checking out FlashReport’s twitter feed here).  At the end of our “Twitter Battle” (as described by the Bee’s Kevin Yamamura in a tweet of his own), Boren says, “…you call an increase in fees on drivers a tax, but not an increase on fees on students. Failing to see the distinction.”

I bring this up because I want to make sure that I explain the distinction.  You see your car is your property.  When the government increases a levy on your property, that is a tax.  This is fundamentally different that raising tuition or fees for those who are choosing to attend state run universities or colleges.  Californians do not have a vested property right in the ability to attend a state university or college.

In the Los Angeles Times yesterday, columnist George Skelton goes hyper-cynical blaming Republicans for all kinds of terrible cuts that are taking place.  It is worth admonishing Mr. Skelton, lefty newspaper editorial board members (or anyone else) who are angry about cuts in state government spending, that instead of blaming Republicans for not increasing tax rates, they should aim their fire at Democrats who are intent on over-regulating this state to the point where the recession is hitting here harder, it seems, than virtually anywhere else.

Californians in virtually every category already are hit with the highest tax rates in the country – and rates are high enough already, plenty high enough to provide a more than adequate stream of revenues to state government.  The problem is that an economic slowdown means that less income is coming into state coffers.  Let’s get the economy back on track, and then the existing tax rates will produce enough money to make even the editorial board members of the Sacramento Bee feel giddy.  Raising taxes now will only further dampen the economic outlook for California, and make things worse.

Republican legislators should endure the “nails on the chalkboard” from these liberal elites with the confidence that they did the right thing for California, her taxpayers, and her economic future.