Guest Post: Don’t Forget to Censure Reagan








Many attendees at the state GOP Convention were either not born or wearing jammies with little feet during the 1966 gubernatorial election in which Ronald Reagan defeated incumbent Democrat Pat Brown. 


Reagan ran on a platform of property tax relief. He opposed the then idea of withholding income taxes from paychecks and expressed opposition to other forms of taxation, as well. 


But by the time he took office in January 1967, the state’s budget was out of whack.  Like today, California was spending more than its revenue could cover. In his autobiography, An American Life, Reagan says the Democrats knew of the imbalance but didn’t want to increase taxes during the election. 


So, Governor Reagan did the very thing what you so abhorrently oppose. The thing you are threatening to censure Republican legislators for: He raised taxes. 


Not only did he raise taxes, he raised them by $1 billion – the largest tax increase in the state’s history. 


That’s right, the 40th President of the United States, Ronald W. Reagan, increased California’s sales tax, personal income tax, bank and corporation tax, cigarette and alcohol tax, and even added some previously untaxed items sold from vending machines. 


He also tried to balance these taxes with property tax relief for homeowners and seniors.  


And he took this action despite a “no tax” pledge. 


In his inaugural address, Reagan proclaimed, “We are going to squeeze and cut and trim until we reduce the cost of government.” He initially ordered a hiring freeze and 10 percent cut of all state agencies.  But that wasn’t enough to close the budget gap.   


Reagan asked a freshman senator from Long Beach to shepherd the tax bill through the Legislature. The senator: George Deukmejian, California’s governor during most of Reagan’s presidency. 


The tax bill, SB 556, clocked in at more than $1 billion by the time it was enacted. 


When he signed the withholding tax measure, Reagan muttered the now famous phrase that “the sound you hear is the cement cracking around my feet.” 


So if conventioneers elect to castigate Assembly members Roger Niello and Anthony Adams or Senators Dave Cogdill and Roy Ashburn and any others they and the other sideline-sitters deem as having “stepped out of line” because they stepped up, did their job and addressed the state’s fiscal calamity, be sure and add Reagan to the list. 


It would hypocritical not to. 

(Editor’s Note: Besides being a student of history, Gus is a long-time Capitol denizen and comment-contributor to California’s Capitol. As he correctly said in submitting this piece, he’s not usually this articulate.)






Filed under: Venting


  1. Nice story, Gus. It’s been a long time since rehab. Today, the Bee ran a story quoting some Republican true-believer he would have rather had the “state fall off a cliff” so his party could put it back together the way it used to be. John from Sacramento: That ain’t happenin’, bro. You can’t go home again, and that’s why I’m no longer a Republican.

    Comment by Les Hartwick — 2.21.2009 @ 8:54 am

  2. Cuz
    Your right on, we haven’t had Republican Leadership in along time… Profiles in Courage ain’t in Hollingsworth playbook. Who would a thought Buster Brown and the pilot.

    Comment by Wally Webgas — 2.21.2009 @ 10:54 pm

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