By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Brown trying to figure how to get more green from state taxpayers
Placeholder Image
Gov. Jerry Brown says he's trying to figure out a tax proposal that would be palatable for California voters.

Good luck with that one.

The governor has pointed out the obvious.

"Without the revenues, we've got to keep cutting schools, courts, fire, police and health care," Brown told the Associated Press. "Public service has to be continuously curtailed unless the revenues expand, either because we get growth back in the economy or we get revenues."

It is doubtful that very many Californians are going to have the stomach for a general tax increase for state spending anytime soon.

First there is the obvious. Some 12.1 percent of all Californians are unemployed. Many have experienced wage stagnation but then again they are thankful to have a job. At the same time the cost of daily basics ranging from food to gas is going up. Toss in - continuing foreclosures and weak or dropping home prices - and it looks doubtful that folks caught up in the web of the economic downturn are going to be clamoring anytime soon for Sacramento to take more money from them.

Then there are the somewhat less obvious reasons. People, to put it bluntly, have had their fill of state government's direction since the 1970s. The Manhattan Institute conducted a survey in August that shows Americans as a whole overwhelmingly prefer state reforms as opposed to more state taxes. And even though California is about as True Blue as it gets, don't look for folks here to willingly send more loose change Sacramento's way.

The poll's findings show voters:

• believe 41 percent of the employees and benefits of most public employees are paid too much for the work that they do and that they are better compensated than comparable private sector workers.

• assume that public employees can retire at full benefits around age 57 and prefer that the retirement age is instead 65.

• support restricting certain state services to address state budget crises is the way to go by a 56 percent plurality.

• are inclined to cut libraries and park services and less inclined to hack away at education, health care, police, and fire.

Combating assumptions - if they are indeed off base - is tough to do in a good economy. It is next to impossible to do so in one where people are on edge.

So it comes down to convincing the 87.9 percent of Californians who still have a job or are retired that they should be required to pay more in taxes to avoid additional cutbacks in state services.

That is about as likely as Sarah Palin - should she get the Republican nod for president - anointing Chaz Bono as her running mate.

So what can be done?

The governor needs to examine what state government looked like when his father, the late Pat Brown, was governor from 1959 to 1967.

While no one is saying slash the state payroll back to what it was then, there are people who would probably support taking the scope of government back to what it was in the 1960s. There should only be a need for one state agency dealing with water issues. There is no need for a state-funded arts council.

We do not need regulations upon regulations. Look at the number that was on the books back then and get rid of redundancy and thin the rules keeping what is important. Every regulation requires money to enforce. That doesn't mean carte blanche for those so inclined to rape and pillage the earth or society. It's just that we overregulate everything including penalties for crimes.

More power to Brown if he manages to come up with a tax that he can sell to voters.

But it seems more productive to expend energy to actually try and "right size" state government not just in terms of its size but its function as well.

Brown's "sin" when he was governor from 1975 to 1983 wasn't fiscal irresponsibility. He did, though, put in place the collective bargaining law without parameters that would have prevented governors and lawmakers from playing Santa Claus in good times and not keeping spending in check. It would be more in line with Brown's campaign promise of trying to find a way to devise and implement long-range fixes for the mess he inherited from a string of governors including - to a degree - himself when he was in Sacramento the first time around.