Welcome to the November issue of NorthBay biz magazine, which includes our predictions of who’ll be among the Leaders of Tomorrow in the North Bay as well as a special report on Wine Country living. We hope you enjoy all the stories, features and columns in the area’s only locally owned, formerly glossy business publication. You can rely on NorthBay biz as your local source for business news and information, because, “Helping grow your business isn’t just something we do…It’s all we do!”
Calls for more new taxes and additional borrowing in the form of bond measures have long ago lost the impact they once had on the collective voter’s psyche. It’s just what today’s form of government does when it’s time to pay off special interests for their support. Now, on the surface, it never looks like a payoff because these taxes are always sold to the voter as being essential to provide public safety, fund schools, replace outdated infrastructure—you know, all the issues that poll well and come with dire warnings of catastrophic consequences to our communities if voters have the temerity to reject the appeal.
In last month’s column, I noted that the state, despite collecting record- setting tax revenues of $250 billion in 2015, finds it necessary to include a startling number of new tax proposals on the November 2016 ballot. It seems no matter how much money the state collects, it never has enough.
Consider this: When you combine the last two elections (November 2014 and June 2016), there were an unbelievable 166 bond measures and 159 new tax proposals on the ballots. The bond measures alone called for more than $17 billion in new debt to be assumed by the taxpayers.
Apparently, the pols were just warming up, because this November’s ballot calls for more than $32 billion in new borrowing from 193 new bond measures. As if that’s not enough, there are also 224 proposals for new taxes on this year’s ballot statewide. It’s estimated that, if all the tax proposals were approved, it would add an additional $3 billion annual burden onto the backs of already struggling California taxpayers. In just the past two years, government has requested 359 new bond measures and 383 new tax proposals be approved by California voters. I find it amazing that big government has no limits in its never-ending quest to grow even bigger.
Politicians at both the state and local level claim they need more money to fund essential government services, but the truth behind this eternal grab for more cash is the need to fund unsustainable retirement benefits for public employees. As elected officials are forced to earmark an ever-increasing percentage of funds for pension costs, less and less is available for “essential” services—hence the need for new tax revenues and more borrowing.
Since this untenable situation is of the government’s own making, it’s difficult to believe it has the ability or desire to rectify it. When the public employee unions donate multiple millions of dollars every year to support politicians dedicated to preserving their relationship with this special interest group and thus the status quo, how can we expect change? When you vote to approve a new bond measure or tax proposal, you’re really voting to reward poor judgment, bad behavior, unsustainable debt and a complete lack of basic fiscal management.
In reading a report published by the Public Policy Center, I found a very compelling comparison that sums up the depth of the unsustainable fiscal burden imposed on California taxpayers.
“If California’s state and local government workers participated in Social Security like the rest of California’s workers, instead of receiving guaranteed defined benefit pensions that, on average, pay four times what Social Security recipients can expect, there would be no insatiable need for more money for the pension systems. Even if California’s state and local government workers merely received defined benefits that paid twice what Social Security recipients can expect, these pension funds would currently have surpluses [instead of hundreds of millions in unfunded deficits]. Moreover, there would be money left over in municipal and school district operating budgets to maintain facilities, instead of having to perpetually borrow.”
At some point every taxpayer has say, where does this madness end?
That’s it for now. Enjoy this month’s magazine.
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