OC Register’s Pretzel Logic on Brown’s Tax-extension Ballot Initiative

OC Register's Pretzel Logic

I say pretzel because the convoluted, twisted logic they use in their editorial makes a pretzel look like a straight line. In their Editorial “Make the ‘right to vote’ on taxes a two-way street” the Register argues; “Mr. Brown says voters have a right to be asked to increase taxes five years by extending 2009’s tax increases, which we were promised two years ago would only be “temporary.” If so, voters should be allowed to consider the corollary question as well., they suggest voters have a right to be asked if they want to cut taxes over the next five years.”

Jerry Brown - Photo OCEA

Interesting premise, but current law requires a 2/3 majority vote of the legislature to raise taxes, and that is not likely with Republican obstruction in the legislature based upon an irrational belief that a “cuts only budget” is the only acceptable solution. In fact, the Republicans in the state legislature are so intractable on this point that it may be next to impossible to get them to agree to place the 5 year tax-extension on the ballot for voters to decide.

The Register argues that if the voters are to be given a choice, they shouldn’t be asked a “loaded question.” They claim:

We’re happy to debate the political and economic merits. Not many voters believe any one’s economic well-being is improved by increasing their tax burden. We suspect many more voters agree with us and with numerous economists that cutting taxes can stimulate the economy, starting with taxpayers’ own personal finances.

Talk about your “loaded” questions. First, the Register hardly desires an honest debate on the political and economic merits of anything. They deliberately shield their readers from any viewpoints that oppose theirs until they have sufficiently established their frame in the minds of their readers. For example, for every on commentary that speaks contrary to their belief that public employee pay and benefits are the cause of budget shortfalls, multiple commentaries are predominantly published to support their position. This is of course, only when they actually print a rebuttal commentary.

Asking the voters if they want to extend the current tax rates they are paying for a period of time to address currrent short-term budget shortfalls, while also understanding the cuts that have been made to the budget and the cuts on the way if the extensions are not approved is the right decision. The voters do have the right to vote to reduce their taxes. In fact, it was the voter aproved initiative initiative Proposition 13 in 1978 that significantly reduced state revenues and changed the way public services have been funded in California for decades.

I think the Register, and the public, should be wary of another such tax reduction initiative being placed before the voters without telling them specifically what will be cut if the taxes are reduced. What the legislature should do, in order to make the debate over the extension of certain tax rates for five more years a fair fight, is detail exactly what the impact of not passing the initiative will cost them in services. No hyperbole of “drastic cuts are on the way if you don’t approve this.” Pass the dooms-day budget and let the voters make an informed choice based upon facts.

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