COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE HAWKINS

Prop. 30 benefits an illusion

Over the past several weeks one outright deception and a separate effort to deceive voters were revealed to California citizens. The media have been all over one of them.

Commentators of every stripe are bemoaning having been misled. Political pundits have registered their surprise in front page newspaper stories and commentary in the sports sections of newspapers. Reporters on radio and television and in national magazines have all taken up a bitter lament.

The first deception, the one getting almost all of the attention, involves Manti Te’o, a football player at a major university. The details are strange, to say the least, and that strangeness is what has generated the hullabaloo. If the public is interested, the media responds.

The second deception is related to Proposition 30, the governor’s successful proposal to raise taxes in California. Prop 30 was approved by about 55 percent of those who voted on the initiative in the November general election. There was deception but when, just after the first of the year, the perfidy was made clear, few took notice and voices of concern were muted.

In each case the misdirection was not exactly a lie. Te’o says he thought an on line relationship he was experiencing was real. Most voters were intentionally influenced to believe all of the new state revenue from Proposition 30 was to be spent on education.

The supporting statements for Proposition 30 were on the edge of truth. Gov. Brown said “... Proposition 30 has tough accountability to make sure money goes to the classroom, where it belongs.” The implication is all of the dough will help education. The fact is, only about half was to go to schools. Some will be used to eliminate furlough days for some public employees. The art of misdirection is alive and well in the mind of a football player and in the mouths of California liberals.

Proposition 30 raised the portion of the sales tax levied by the state of California one quarter of one cent. It also imposed increased income tax rates on people in California who earn more than $250,000. Those new income taxes are retroactive. They apply to 2012 incomes.

It may not be much of a hardship for people in the upper income brackets to make up the difference, though the difference is a whopping 30 percent increase in the tax rates on those incomes, but even big money people have to swallow at that and make adjustments.

Perhaps, as professional golfer Phil Mickelson said, that adjustment might be a drastic one. Drastic to him might mean he will leave California and the higher income tax rate that applies to people like him.

Judging by the media attention to the governor’s artful misdirection the general public apparently doesn’t much care. After all, it was only a quarter of a cent on the sales tax side and everyone can afford a measly quarter of a penny. Since most people don’t earn more than $250,000 a year, the bulk of this new money will come from “someone else.” Or it could be that the voters are so accustomed to being duped by public officials they have stopped reacting.

Actuaries say the new rates and sales tax will raise about $6 billion a year. Including this new money, California regulatory officials will have an expected $98 billion of revenue. That means they will have about $2,600 to spend for the benefit of each California resident.

If their actions are an indicator, legislators must believe using a portion of the new revenue to end unpaid furlough days for some public employees is good for everyone. It certainly benefits the public employees who will see their wages return to earlier levels, but it doesn’t do much for the roughly 10 percent of Californians who are out of work.

If California’s governing elitists continue to take more and more dollars out of the California economy, concentrating to some degree on those who earn the most, the exodus of the wealthy is likely to include more people than Mickelson.

Thirty-four thousand California wage earners pay fully 25 percent of the income taxes collected in this state. It won’t take many reacting the way Mickelson did to upset the applecart. The writing is on the wall.

Hawkins is retired after 35 years as a construction industry association manager. He was a broadcast reporter and news anchor in Denver. As a Navy officer, he saw action in Vietnam in the River Assault Squadrons and is the recipient of a Silver Star and Purple Heart. He can be reached at george.hawkins@sddt.com

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