Governor Jerry Brown recently announced, to the surprise of no rational observer, that California still faces a 16 billion dollar deficit. It’s what inevitably happens when a state is largely run for the benefit of public employee unions, business-averse interest groups, and large voting blocs that support lax border enforcement and demand ever more goodies from Sacramento.
In view of this annual fiscal crisis, one might think the state’s deep-blue politicians would consider pulling the plug on a multi-billion dollar high-speed rail project whose cost estimates have increased as dramatically as questions about its utility. That decision, however, would represent a rational approach, and rationality doesn’t count for much when it comes to legislators enamored with Tinseltown fantasies.
Accordingly, the California Assembly turned down Diane Harkey’s proposed “Lemon Law,” AB 1455, that would have terminated the flow of funds to a super fast choo-choo that’s currently estimated to cost around 100 billion dollars. Instead, the governor’s approach to our fiscal train wreck is higher taxes and a gun-to-head threat of cuts in “essential” services if voters fail to pass the proposed tax increases that will appear on November’s ballot.
Note that it’s always public safety, parks, and education that are tentatively placed on the budgetary chopping block—not an unpopular rail boondoggle or any of the redundant bureaucratic agencies that infect Sacramento and the state’s bloated university system. (Does UCSD really need, as Heather MacDonald noted in a City Journal article last year, a handsomely-compensated vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion—in addition to a massive diversity apparatus that includes more than a dozen different positions and various councils or centers all devoted to this PC obsession?)
In line with Sacramento’s bureaucratic mentality, Proposition 29 not only adds to the existing taxes on tobacco, it also sets up yet another committee with its (doubtless well paid) officials to distribute money for cancer research and anti-smoking education programs. Never mind that the state already funds a plethora of anti-smoking ads.
I suspect the most tangible beneficiaries from passage of this proposition will be those folks who oversee distribution of the estimated $735 million that will be raised from its dollar-a-pack tax. (According to the proposed law, approximately two percent of the funds raised, or about 14.5 million dollars, can go to administrative costs.)
This initiative would have greater appeal to non-smokers like me if all the funds from the new tax were applied to the state’s yawning budget deficit and not to the creation of yet another government commission whose designated pot of gold is exempt from rational budgetary review.