With Enough Private Donations, a Statue of Ronald Reagan Will Grace the State Capitol

If private donors pony up, there will be a statue of President – and former California Governor – Ronald Reagan in the “new” section of the state Capitol.

(The “new” section is the East Annex, completed 60 years ago.)

Under legislation signed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown – Reagan’s successor  as California’s chief executive — the statue’s design, placement and upkeep will be paid for by the Ronald Reagan Centennial Capitol Foundation, created last year to help celebrate the actor-turned-politician’s 100th birthday.

 “A bronze statue of Jimmy Carter greets visitors in Atlanta, Georgia; John F. Kennedy in Boston, Dwight Eisenhower in Topeka and Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois,” said the bill’s author Assemblyman Curt Hagman, a Chino Hills Republican, in a statement.

Brown said he was “proud” to sign the bill, AB 2358. He should be – Reagan jumpstarted Brown’s political career.

“(Reagan) demonstrated courage and unique leadership ability – even to the point of raising California taxes when he saw they were needed,” Brown said in a signing statement.

The Democratic governor did not say it was his father, Pat Brown, who left the state in deficit when Reagan took office in 1967. Reagan encouraged his GOP colleagues to quickly pass a tax increase to cover the budget shortfall before voters forgot who actually created the hole.

During the 1966 gubernatorial campaign, Reagan pledged that his feet were locked in concrete when it came to not raising taxes. But the deficit he inherited from Brown the Elder was so huge the GOP governor believed the level of spending cuts needed to close it would be crippling.

Reagan subsequently endorsed a $1 billion tax increase, equal to one-third of state revenue at the time. It would be the same as a $17 billion tax increase today. It remains – by percentage — the largest tax increase proposed by a governor in United States history.

The top income tax rate climbed from 7 percent to 10 percent. Sales taxes were increased from 3 percent to 5 percent. The bank and corporate tax rate went up from 5.5 percent to 7 percent.

Taxes on cigarettes rose from 3 cents to 10 cents per pack. Taxes on distilled spirits were boosted from $1.50 to $2 per gallon. Even the inheritance tax was increased.

Classic Reagan: Announcing the tax increase proposal at a press conference in front of the Capitol he said, “The sound you hear is concrete cracking.”

He also proposed subsequent tax increases in 1970 of which about half the provisions — $508 million worth – were approved by lawmakers the following year. In 1972, the sales tax was bumped from 5 percent to 6 percent and bank and corporation taxes from 7.6 percent to 9 percent. That year’s package totaled $1.1 billion, some $12.5 billion in today’s dollars.

 All told, state revenues tripled from $2.9 billion in Reagan’s first fiscal year as governor to $8.6 billion in the fiscal year ending June 30, 1975, Reagan’s last. His memoirs do not dwell on this chapter of his political career.

A bronze statue of the former president graces Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. Another statue of Reagan in Newport Beach was vandalized in 2011.

An unsolicited suggestion for a quote to grace the pedestal:

“It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.”



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