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Californians pay the highest state personal income taxes in the nation, but if state Senators Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) and Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) have their way, teachers will be off the hook. Galgiani and Stern’s Senate Bill 807 would provide teachers with tax credits for college tuition, certification expenses and other costs. If they remain in the classroom for five years, they gain complete exemption from state income tax.
The bill is supposed to remedy a teacher shortage, but taxpayers should not be fooled.
The tax exemption amounts to a pay raise of four to six percent for the state’s teachers, whose average salary is $69,324, by some accounts $84,489, highest in the nation, and much higher than California’s $61,818 median household income. California teachers are not underpaid and not overworked. The school year is 180 days, in some districts 175 days, so teachers in effect work only half the year. The benefits are all gold-plated and firing a teacher is nearly impossible, whatever the gravity of the offense.
Teachers also received another bonus in the form of the Local Control Funding Formula. The billions for “at risk” students and English learners is being spent on salary increases, and Governor Jerry Brown is okay with it, in the name of “subsidiarity.” It’s his payoff to the teacher unions and educrats who helped extend the “temporary” tax hikes of 2012.
Like the governor, legislators who want to exempt teachers from state income tax remain unwilling to lower taxes across the board, for every taxpayer. A single worker earning $51,530 pays a rate of 9.3 percent. Many of the top earners, who pay the highest rate of 13.3 percent, are high-tech entrepreneurs who generate jobs and revenue. As Senator Stern sees it, however, “teachers are the original job creators” and thus more deserving of a tax break. Stern and Galgiani’s Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act of 2017 would be more accurately titled the Separate and Unequal Tax Exemption Act.