Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yes on California Proposition 30

Title: Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Proposition 30 raises two California taxes on a temporary, but lengthy, basis. The money would be used for education, including through the college level, and for public safety, which is mainly police and prisons.

Education, preferably free public education, is a fundamental pillar of democracy. California's public schools were underfunded even before the recession hit in 2008. College education, in particular, has become a luxury only a few families can afford.

Policing and prisons, the justice system, and the very nature of society, need fundamental reform, but in the meantime we have no viable substitute for public safety. People who live in fear of crime cannot exercise their human and democratic rights. Public safety also needs increased funding.

The taxes imposed by Proposition 30 are fairly minimal. There would be a 1/4% increase in the current sales tax, but the rate would still be lower than we had two years ago. This would last four years.

There would also be an increase in California State income tax on natural (non-corporate) persons making over $250,000 in annual income, or couples making over $500,000 in annual income. The increase is graduated, from 1% at the $250,000 to $300,000 level up to 3% at the over $500,000 level.

Given the incredibly low federal tax rates for the highest-income taxpayers, this is not really much of a burden to the most fortunate Californians. The rest of us wish we could make that kind of income and have the privilege of paying the higher rate. This tax increase would last for seven years, and my guess is that it will have to be renewed then.

If there is a problem with Proposition 30, it is that is uses the Constitutional Amendment process. The California State Constitution is already a huge mess. This will add to it. The text is complex enough to render it unintelligible not just to ordinary citizens, but to everyone who is not already an expert in the tax code and state constitutional law. I just don't see why tax increases require amending the Constitution, except perhaps that then they can't be reversed easily.

Yes on 30, save our education system

Proposition 30 summary, official arguments, and text