My friend Peter Schrag, former editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee, has received much attention on the idea that California is shortchanging itself by adopting Mississippi-like tax policies and creating Mississippi level public services. Peter coined the term “Mississippification” in his oft-cited work, Paradise Lost, titling Part Three of his tome with his new word.

However, when he used the attack again Monday in his California Progress Report column, it was well past time to set the record straight.

In discussing the missed potential of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s term as governor, Schrag wrote: “Of anyone elected to the office in the past generation, he could have forced the state to confront the hard choices between generous, high-quality pubic services – good roads, great schools, perks and universities, quality health care, a clean environment – and Mississippi-level tax rates.”

California has Mississippi level tax rates? Hardly!

A quick journey into the statistics at the Tax Foundation website tells quite a different story.

California has seven income tax brackets. The lowest rate is 1.25%, the highest for millionaires is 10.55%. That high-end bracket is more than twice the high end of Mississippi’s three tax brackets. Mississippi’s top end tax rate is 5%, which kicks in at $10,000.

California’s 6.25% tax bracket kicks in at $26,821; its 9.55% rate affects those with taxable income of $47,055 and above. So Mississippi taxes it’s poorer citizens more (the lowest Mississippi tax rate is 3%), but California hits the middle and upper taxpayers much harder.

Mississippi’s sales tax is 7%. California is rated 8.25% on the Tax Foundation website but in many cities the sales tax comes close to 10%. California taxes gasoline per gallon more than twice Mississippi’s rate. Cigarette taxes are more in California; alcohol taxes are greater in Mississippi.

The bottom line is that Californians pay much more in taxes than residents of Mississippi. In the Tax Foundation’s ranking of states California is rated the sixth highest taxed state; Mississippi is well below the halfway point at 36.

The Tax Foundation is well known for declaring Tax Freedom Day established as the date in the year that a taxpayer has to work to pay off his or her tax obligations. According to the Tax Foundation, Tax Freedom Day in Mississippi is March 28. Californians continue to work for the state and local governments until the day before Tax Day, April 14.

Sorry, Peter, but that argument that California is paying low Mississippi-like taxes just won’t fly.