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Some taxpayers remain unaware that government-employee unions run the state of California, but the evidence is not hard to find. Sure enough, Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, fired the first salvo to make a temporary tax hike permanent. “Proposition 30 is the best thing to happen to public education and the economy in California in a generation,” the union boss rhapsodizes. Not only is there more money for “public education,” that is, teacher salaries, but “the state economy and budget have improved.” Nobody is fleeing the state, and happy days are here again. “Contrary to the anti-tax and anti-government rhetoric popular in some quarters, Proposition 30 is working, and has provided a road map for other states.” Therefore, “it is imperative that the state Legislature and the governor act to make it permanent.”
Not so fast, responded Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association: “For those who don’t remember, Proposition 30, titled the Temporary Taxes to Save Education Act, imposed the highest income tax rate in America. It also bumped up the sales tax – a tax that hits the lower and middle classes particularly hard – to tops in the nation.” California’s unemployment rate is “third-highest in the nation,” its supplemental poverty ranking is the “worst in the country,” and statistics show that “upper income individuals are fleeing the state in response to high taxes.” And as Coupal notes, nobody know how many stuck around on the grounds that the temporary tax hikes would expire. Coupal also finds “compelling evidence that California today would be enjoying a bigger slice of the national economic recovery had we not passed Proposition 30 at all.”
This all makes sense, but the surge for permanence has precedent. In the 1970s, Californians voted for a temporary Coastal Commission. Under governor Jerry Brown, legislators quickly made it permanent. Current governor Jerry Brown recently signed legislation that gives the powerful, unelected Commission the power to bypass the courts and impose fines directly.
Taxpayers will find the same ruling-class ruse at work with Proposition 30. Pechthalt wants the governor and legislators to make the call, not the voters. They might vote down permanent higher taxes, as they did with Proposition 13, and the ruling class won’t stand for that. So Jerry Brown and the new crop of legislators will likely take their marching orders from a union boss, not the people.