Wednesday, March 25, 2009
IN MY OPINION (Column)
Governor, You’re Not in Hollywood Anymore
By JON COUPAL
In Hollywood, when a studio is having problems with a screenplay, they often call on a skilled writer known as a “script doctor” to improve portions of dialogue, pacing or, in extreme cases, even the story line.
Hollywood veteran Arnold Schwarzenegger apparently is having problems with one of his own productions, Proposition 1A on the May 19 special election ballot, a measure that would cost Californians $16 billion in additional taxes. So our governor is trying to rewrite the script himself. But in politics, this function is called a “spin doctor.”
Although Proposition 1A was put on the ballot as part of the February budget deal, the governor has embraced it as his own. And Dr. Arnold is now promoting it as budget reform, not a tax increase.
In a speech before San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club, Schwarzenegger said Proposition 1A is not a tax increase because the tax increase has already been approved. “No matter how you vote on the reform package, yes or no, taxes will be increased temporarily,” he said. “It’s just a matter of whether it’s two years or it’s four years.”
Let’s see. Suppose one buys a car and agrees to a price of $20,000. After believing the transaction completed, the buyer receives a bill for a second payment of another $20,000. When calling the dealer, the buyer is told that the second $20,000 is not an increase in the price, it is just an extension. I suspect very few people would accept this explanation, and for most the next step would be to contact a lawyer, the attorney general’s office and the Better Business Bureau.
Yet this doubling of the tax increase, by extending the length of its imposition, is not a tax increase according to the governor.
In case anyone has lost track, as a result of the budget “deal” Californians will pay higher sales, income and car taxes. Families will lose an additional $200 in tax credits for each dependent child. These tax increases will move the state from sixth in the nation in taxation as a percentage of personal income, to first.
Ignoring this, the governor wants us to believe that Proposition 1A is simply a measure that will provide the state with a rainy day fund to be used during difficult times, and a cap on spending. But Proposition 1A fails in its promise to provide a real spending limit for California. How can it, when the governor can suspend transfers into the budget stabilization fund simply by issuing an executive order? How can this be characterized as imposing “spending discipline” if the spending limit will automatically be adjusted upward for new taxes?
The only thing certain about Proposition 1A is that it will continue the tax increase by an amount estimated by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office to be $16 billion.
Apparently believing that the best defense is a good offense, the governor attacked opponents of Proposition 1A calling them “special interests.” By special interests, does the governor mean taxpayers? Does he mean those of us who are struggling to hold onto our jobs at a time when more than one in ten of our neighbors are unemployed? Does he mean those who are desperately trying to hang onto their homes in an economy that is resulting in record high foreclosures? Is he referring to the millions of Californians who work hard to provide for their families, while at the same time paying record taxes so that state employees –- the highest paid in the nation –- can be exempted from any significant sacrifice?
Schwarzenegger also claims that those who say a vote for Proposition 1A is a vote for tax increases are on the “far right” and are guilty of misleading voters. Could his remarks be directed at the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which has taken a leadership position in opposing Proposition 1A? That seems odd because six years ago he gladly appeared as the featured speaker at an event commemorating the 25th anniversary of Proposition 13 and heaped lavish praise on both Howard Jarvis and the work of the taxpayers organization he founded.
Not once did he express the view that the organization that had helped millions of Californians keep their homes was a “special interest” or advanced an agenda outside the mainstream. In fact, after being elected governor, he asked me, the organization’s president, to join his transition team.
The governor has run twice as a steadfast opponent of new taxes. His change of heart is reminiscent of one of his movies, Total Recall, where memories are erased and replaced. Is it possible that Schwarzenegger’s mind has been replaced by that of another filmmaker, the far-left Michael Moore?
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company