As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, August 24, 2009

And... That's Over

The California Chamber of Commerce and 33 other business groups have basically stuck a knife in the Parsky Commission with a coalition letter opposing most of the tax reforms proposed. I'm sure they'd still love to see a flat income tax and the elimination of corporate taxes, but since they have basically refused all revenue-raisers in this document, that won't happen.

The coalition doesn't like removing Proposition 13's property tax limits from business property and a proposed new "carbon tax," both of which have been promoted by the tax commission's liberal bloc. But it also is warning about the potentially negative effects of a "net business receipts tax," similar to a European-style value-added tax, that commission chairman Gerald Parsky champions [...]

"The California business community has consistently stated that the solution to California's revenue problems will only come from robust economic growth and job creation," said today's letter to Parsky. "We believe the proposed split roll property tax and the energy tax would be extremely detrimental to California's economy. As for the business net receipts tax, we believe it is risky and inappropriate to move forward with dramatic changes to the tax structure without first fully vetting their impact on California jobs and the economy."

The only way for the Parsky Commission to get an up-or-down vote for its recommendations is by making the package revenue-neutral. The CalChamber document opposes all of the tax hikes while saying nothing about the reductions. California Democrats can be squishy, but not squishy enough to eliminate corporate taxes in exchange for nothing. Sen. Steinberg never agreed to bring the commission recommendations to a vote in the first place. And without an offset, they will never see the light of day.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chamber of Commerce. Even in the unlikely even that the legislature ignores this letter and passes some plan including split-roll or a carbon tax or a business net receipts tax, there's no way the Governor signs it. The Parsky Commission is dead.

And I'm not really shedding a tear for it. Forcing a revenue-neutral standard on how to fix the tax structure inevitably was going to shift the tax burden from the rich, who have the clout to shield themselves from the predations of lawmakers, to the middle and lower classes, who don't. The very structure was flawed, and the reforms sought of a lesser order than being able to properly fund government according to the wishes of the majority.

So we can move on to the next challenge. Calbuzz has a good scene-setter on that, referring to something that Jean Ross mentioned in our Netroots Nation panel last week. California Forward's reform package may include, as a condition of repealing the 2/3 rule for passing a budget (and only the budget), a raising of the threshold to 2/3 for mitigation fees on businesses, which may extend to fees on alcohol, oil production and "anything else that carries a nexus to a public problem." In other words, while the budget would require a majority vote, revenue (which is 1/2 of a budget) would be subject to an even higher standard than it is now, and the legislature would be constrained in their ability to respond to the impact of corporate actions that harm the public good. Actually it could go even further than that:

But Chairman Bob (Hertzberg) insists it would be a mistake to focus only on Sinclair as the key to business support for CF reforms. The only way some of the conservatives and business people on CF would “even consider” allowing 50% to pass the budget is if there’s a whole panoply of budget reforms – pay-as-you-go provisions, controls on one-time expenditures, two-year budgeting, performance reviews, sunset provisions AND limits on what can pass with 50% as a “fee,” he said.

But will liberals – on CF and in the Legislature – agree to circumscribe their current authority to impost fees with a majority vote? Will they agree that there has to be a “clear nexus” between charges allocated to a polluter or manufacturer of polluty stuff?

As Jean Ross puts it, ever so succinctly, "California Forward?" I concur.

So while we appear to have sidestepped the Parsky Commission (for now), California Backward's set of "reforms" still lurk in the distance.

Labels: , , , , ,