“In this season of Thanksgiving, please don’t blame taxpayers if they are distracted by the injuries being perpetrated against them by our political class.” These words were the preface of this column at the beginning of the holiday season in 2008 and, sadly, little has changed. In fact, in many ways taxpayers are worse off now than they were then.
Six years ago, California’s tax burden was ranked 6th nationally. Today we trail only New York as the worst state for taxpayers. We now rank first in state sales tax, first in marginal income tax rates, first in gasoline tax and, even with Proposition 13, we rank in the top third in per capita property taxes. Because Proposition 13 makes it harder for California to overtake New York as our nation’s number one taxpayer hell, one can expect new efforts by Sacramento politicians to undermine its protections in the new legislative session.
Some of our state leaders like to chirp happily about California’s declining unemployment rate, but only three states are worse off and our 7.3 percent rate is much higher than the national rate of 5.8 percent. Still, all these figures are suspect because they do not count the discouraged who have stopped looking for work entirely. And even those counted include many part-time workers for whom the best holiday gift would be finding fulltime employment.
Then there is the constantly growing, and largely ignored unfunded pension liability now estimated at several hundred billion. It stood at $6.3 billion just a decade ago. As more government workers retire, this debt will come due and will have to be addressed by either reduced public services or tax increases or both. The pressure for new revenue to support the retired workforce will provide an additional incentive to politicians to demolish Proposition 13’s taxpayer protections.
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