SALT II It Ain’t But…
Recently, California’s Capitol had the privilege of moderating a panel comprised of GOP Assemblyman Roger Niello of Sacramento and Assemblyman Jared Huffman, a San Rafael Democrat.*
Since it was the 67th Annual Conference of the California Water Association a fair amount of time was spent discussing water – or the state’s lack thereof – and assessing the cut of Huffman’s jib given his appointment as the new chair of the lower house’s Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.
But when the water questioned dried up the topic turned to the budget – or the state’s lack thereof.
Although the conference preceded the release of the Legislative Analyst’s economic forecast which pronounced California’s fiscal condition as “bleak,” it was no secret to Huffman or Niello that the state’s economy was sinking faster than a crime lord in concrete galoshes.
There was the usual ideological boilerplate:
Huffman said the state needed to raise revenue and that repeated cutting of spending was harming California’s ability to educate kids and protect the poor and infirm.
Niello said that raising taxes would be catastrophic, penalizing Californians already reeling from the economic maelstrom. Revenue could be found from leasing tracts for offshore drilling instead and every penny in state spending should be scrupulously scrutinized.
If that sounds familiar it’s because, in varying forms, that’s the discordant litanies chanted throughout this year.
Those would be the same litanies that led to needlessly tardy faux budget that, if anything, only exacerbated the state’s fiscal woes by doing nothing to combat the current imbalance between cash and spending commitments and worsening that imbalance two years hence by handing businesses $1 billion in tax breaks in return for the GOP votes needed to pass the stinker.
However, this is the season to give thanks and so rather than focus on division its better to focus on commonality.
Without hesitation, Huffman said the sales tax should be broadened to include either or both entertainment and services.
Niello said he agreed – with a caveat.
“The least bad tax is the one with the broadest possible base with the lowest possible rate,” he said in a subsequent interview. “Including services and broadening the (sales tax) base is perfectly reasonable – if it comes with lowering the rate.”
Asked if he would support a cut in the sales tax rate, which is 7.25 percent or more depending on the county, Huffman said that would be a “fair trade-off.”
So lest it be said there’s no room for comity or compromise in the California Legislature think again.
A 1,000-mile journey begins with one footstep.
*(Editor’s Note: One wonders why the California Water Association would opt for California Capitol’s Chief Correspondent, a notorious lay-about and scalawag, when they could have been treated to the wisdom of the visionary who turns his sand granules into pearls.)
Filed under: Budget and Economy
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