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Rocket Tax Reveals California’s Tunnel Vision

Thursday February 8th, 2018   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 1:41pm PST   •  

This week Elon Musk launched his Falcon Heavy skyward, with a Tesla roadster along for the ride.

A power pack of 27 Merlin engines boosted the takeoff with five million pounds of thrust, the most by a conventional rocket since the Saturn V moon mission. As USA Today reported, “within a half-hour of the liftoff, SpaceX cameras showed images of a spacesuit-clad ‘Starman’ in the driver’s seat of Musk’s convertible floating above Earth.”

In all the excitement, reporters overlooked one reality: California is the only state to tax commercial rocket launches, and some observers might find that odd.

In his first go-round as governor, Jerry Brown wanted California to have its own space program, which got him tagged “Governor Moonbeam.” Brown did launch three campaigns to become president of the United States and each time he failed. After the 2016 election of Donald Trump, Brown announced that California might launch its own satellites. That didn’t happen, but the state does slap a tax on commercial rocket launches.

If that bothers the governor, he isn’t talking about it. Brown once proclaimed himself a “born again tax cutter” but now backs the nation’s highest income and sales taxes, and he blasts tax protesters as “freeloaders.”

While entrepreneur Elon Musk looks up, politician Jerry Brown looks down. He wanted to dig two massive tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta, at a cost of $16 billion, but has now downgraded that plan to a single tunnel at a cost of $10.7 billion. He also backs the state’s beleaguered “bullet train,” though costs for the first segment alone just rose to $10.6 billion, with no complaint from the outgoing governor.

Brown wants taxes and spending to soar, not the entrepreneurial spirit. This is a governor, and a state, with its head in the ground.

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February 2018