Tax man

Thanks to Governor Gray Davis and a spendthrift Democrat-controlled state Legislature, Californians are now paying the highest taxes in the state’s 150-year history, even steeper than the pre-Proposition 13 levels that sparked a property tax revolt.

California residents now shell out even more money in taxes than people who live in quasi-socialist nations, such as Germany. The tax bill faced by California residents, compared to people who live in the German states of Bavaria or Saxony, is nearly seven percentage points higher, according to Olaf Gersemann, the Washington writer for a German business and economic weekly.

Earlier this year, Stephen Moore and Stephen Slivinski of the Cato Institute evaluated Davis and 47 other governors (two governors weren’t evaluated because of their short tenures in office) in their Fiscal Report Card of the Governors.

By their standards on government spending and tax cuts, Gray Davis is virtually the worst governor in the nation. He received an “F” and ranked 47th out of the 48 governors, finishing ahead of only Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber.

In the nearly three years since Davis took office, the state general fund budget has ballooned from $57 billion to $79 billion, a jump of 37 percent while the population only rose by 5 percent.

In one year alone, Davis and his Democrat colleagues in the state Legislature increased the size of state government by 20 percent—as much as Davis’ predecessor, Republican Pete Wilson, did over his entire eight years in office.

Because of Wilson’s relative frugality and an economy that rebounded in the mid-1990s, Davis and the California Legislature inherited a three-year, $25 billion state surplus that should have been returned to its rightful owners—the state’s taxpayers.

More than 90 percent of this massive state budget surplus went to expanded state government, including the addition of thousands of new state employees. Now the state of California is facing a budget deficit in excess of $12 billion.

This past summer, even with state taxes at their highest level ever, all 50 Democrats in the state Assembly and all 26 Democrats in the state Senate voted to support the Davis budget that contained a $1.2 billion state sales tax increase.

Since California’s Democrat-controlled state government seems unable to restrain its fiscal appetite, there is one possible solution for taxpayers—a ballot initiative that restricts the spending of its politicians.