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Tax naïveté: We need smaller budgets, not higher taxes

Right About Now

Posted: July 17, 2008 11:21 p.m.
Updated: September 18, 2008 5:02 a.m.

‘We've got so much taxation. I don't know of a single foreign product that enters this country untaxed except the answer to prayer."
- Mark Twain, 1906

Unfortunately, I think Twain is wrong in one regard - our current elected officials are probably seeking ways to tax communications from the Almighty. I would not doubt it one bit.

We will be sitting in our church/synagogue/temple and be handed a form that exclaims at the top, "Internal Revenue Service - Answered Prayer Schedule." Did your Aunt Thelma get over her bursitis? The Feds will want $23.37 for that. Did your teacher get sick on the day of the big test? Uncle Sam will hit you with a $4.15 tax bill. Dodgers win the pennant? That will cost you $469.22 (pipe dreams are a little extra).

State and federal representatives seem greatly enamored these days with the thought of greater revenue at our expense. Even when gas is $4.60 a gallon, the price of food is skyrocketing and folks are defaulting left and right on their mortgages, the Democrat-controlled Congress and Legislature are devising nefarious new taxes with which to pound us.

Following is just a snippet of proposed attacks on your wallet by your elected officials.

California's socialist state Legislature is now considering $9.7 billion in new taxes to close the $15.2 billion dollar deficit for 2008. While The Governator has proposed significant budget cuts to close the gap, the

Legislature refuses to come to grips with the reality that tougher economic times mean smaller budgets, not larger.

Most of these taxes will be targeted at the "rich" and corporations. All the while, the Education Establishment receives more tax dollars, even though enrollment is decreasing and projected to do so for several more years (Calif. State Dept of Finance, Oct 2007).

Educators will not even consider small decreases in their rapidly bloating budgets. Has all semblance of reality been lost?

Last week, the Los Angeles City Council proposed a new parcel tax to fight gang activity. Sounds good, right?

But the provision, as written, would have allowed the City Council to increase the tax each year to "reflect the cost of inflation." However, there would be no oversight or limits on the tax, essentially granting council members carte blanche to raise taxes and use the revenues wherever they see fit.

Fortunately, the proposal was shelved after an uproar by concerned citizens.

At the federal level, the desire for more revenues is the same. As mentioned previously in this column, projected budget estimates for the coming years by the Democratic House and Senate are a cornucopia of new programs and entitlements that will be financed by raising taxes and killing the Bush tax cuts that were enacted several years ago.

Here is a naïve idea. What if we had a maximum tax liability for every citizen, regardless of income level?

Suppose we said that the maximum amount of income tax from all sources could be no more than 15 percent? The state would take 3 percent and the IRS would take 12 percent.

As our income level rises over the years, so would the amount that government entities receive. Of course, in the case of extreme emergencies such as war, famine, giant monster attack, or paparazzi/surfer battles, the state/federal agencies could temporarily raise rates to 20 percent to 25 percent.

However, at the end of the emergency, the revenues must return to the original 15 percent level.

State legislators would have to decide how to spend their 3 percent portion of the pie. That means they would have to balance the budget and make the tough decisions that you and I do each day: Should we buy Junior his braces or take that trip to Hawaii? Do we fix the car or buy the new ski boat?

Today, the Legislature says "do it all; we'll just slap on a few more fees or raise taxes a bit. No one will notice." But those days of easy budgeting would end. The Legislature would be forced to do its job and think about priorities in the context of the state budget.

One other thing - we would outlaw the use of the word "fees" in relation to government services. Any amount charged to the public for any reason would be called a "tax."

Paying your DMV bill? It's a tax. How about Fido's dog license? Yep, it's a tax. How about taking your boat onto Lake Castaic? It's another tax. Politicians manipulate us with the word "fees." Let's call it what it is: taxes.

Property taxes would still be regulated by Proposition 13. In fact, a new proposition (let's call it Prop 14) would be enacted to cover all other forms of taxation from all other sources. All government services would be controlled at a set rate, preventing elected officials from stealing money from us in other ways.

Would this naïve plan work? Could it be this simple?

We could only hope and pray that it would be. Darn it. Just got the Prayer Schedule. It says I owe $9.43 for the prayer in this column.

Steve Lunetta is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal. "Right About Now" runs Fridays in The Signal and rotates among local Republican writers.


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