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Sacramento continues to propose new taxes

By: Assemblyman Kevin Kiley
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Our state government is collecting more money from Californians than ever before. At $200 billion, this year’s state budget set a new record, surpassing last year’s budget by three times the rate of inflation, with a $9 billion surplus. But legislative leaders in Sacramento are still demanding more.

In just the last few months, a flurry of new taxes and fees has been proposed, including on water, on cell phones and even on fireworks. That’s notwithstanding that the largest gas tax increase in California history was passed last year, or that the state already levies the country’s highest income tax and sales tax. The disconnect is staggering, reflecting a governing mentality that interprets every crisis as an opportunity to tax, while failing to recognize that the state’s real crisis is one of affordability.

Indicative of just how tone deaf Sacramento has become is the proposal to tax fireworks. Intended to provide funding for contraband enforcement, the tax was announced several days before the Fourth of July – a holiday celebrating a Declaration of Independence triggered largely by excessive taxation. I opposed this measure when it came before one of my committees, and thankfully I was not alone: so severe was the backlash that its backers quickly withdrew it, lest it be defeated as soundly as the British at Saratoga.

Other proposals to raise taxes have met a similar fate this year. In parts of the Central Valley, decades of state neglect have led to a clean water crisis. Rather than pay for infrastructure improvements using money out of the General Fund, legislative leaders tried to exploit the Valley’s predicament by pushing through California’s first-ever tax on water. I was one of several lawmakers who joined together to defeat this proposal, pointing out that clean water treatment is precisely what General Fund dollars are meant to pay for. The tax was shelved, and a compromise was reached to ensure that $23.5 million would be made available for clean water projects.

That leaves the proposed $60 million tax on cell phones. Once again, the ostensible cause is a worthy one – to raise money for 911 services. But as with the water tax, legislative leaders mislead when they claim no other source of funding is available, conveniently forgetting the state’s multi-billion dollar budget surplus.

The march toward ever greater taxation has incalculable costs. As one measure, the San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that California has become so expensive that, in many parts of the state, a six figure salary is now considered “low income.” If California is to remain a place where middle class families can thrive, the Legislature must work not to make our government bigger, but to make our state more affordable.

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley represents the 6th Assembly District, which includes parts of El Dorado, Placer, and Sacramento counties. A taxpayer advocate, he will be holding a town hall on Tuesday, June 17th from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at the Granite Bay Public Library (6475 Douglas Boulevard).