All other things are not equal in California

Tom Del Beccaro
Former Chairman of the California Republican Party and current candidate for U.S. Senate

California’s ongoing budget problem brings with it an endless supply of commentary and proposed fixes. Not long ago, I wrote that California now has a revenue problem. Long before that, I wrote The New Conservative Paradigm that suggested that we need a true part-time legislature, 2 year budget cycles, a true budget cap, pension reform, sun setting of programs, zero based funding and cost/benefit analyses for all spending programs – to name just a few necessary reforms.

The tax issue, as readers of my columns well know, is of particular concern to me. Simply stated, the California tax burden is too high – which, when combined with the national tax burden, the 2nd highest in our history – ensures that the California economy will be slow for years to come.

In light of that, I took great interest in Dan Walters’ column in yesterday’s Sacramento Bee entitled: Are California taxes too high or too low? Walters cites a study which says that California had the 6th highest state tax burden in 2008. Of course, that means California is not the worst. But Walters’ column does not tell the whole story that we need to know. Here is why:

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The Next Steps for California

Tom Del Beccaro
Former Chairman of the California Republican Party and current candidate for U.S. Senate

Just as they did so when they defeated the Reiner Initiative in 2005 and rejected Gray Davis’ tripling of the car tax, California voters once again rejected calls for more taxes in yesterday’s statewide special election.

The writing was on the wall from early on – Rasmussen Reports indicated that 73% of Californians opposed income tax increases and 69% opposed sales tax increases. In addition, 69% of respondents believed that major cuts in government are the way to balance the budget, while only 16% opposed them. Given the voter registration statistics in this state, those response rates constitute a solid consensus across party lines and a clear message that it is time for the politicians to offer a new direction for California.

Even in the face of adversity, with our legislators facing another multi-billion dollar deficit, there are some simple steps that can be taken to rebuild trust with the people of California.

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A Difficult Crossroad Remains

Tom Del Beccaro
Former Chairman of the California Republican Party and current candidate for U.S. Senate

Last weekend, the Executive Committee of the CA Republican Party voted overwhelmingly to oppose the Budget Package – Measures 1A through 1F. That vote mirrored the two to one opposition within the Party’s Initiative’s Committee and the opposition of the Party Delegates as well. In simple political terms, if politics is the art of the possible, and I think it is, it is simply not possible for the Republican rank and file to overlook the included tax increase or a government going out of control.

It is not possible in their minds for several reasons but one principle reason: for nearly all Republicans, being against tax increases is the final line in the sand. It is their core belief. Some, including the Governor, view that as being politically inflexible. I beg to differ.

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Why the Open Primary is Worse Than Bad

Tom Del Beccaro
Former Chairman of the California Republican Party and current candidate for U.S. Senate

It is said, philosophically, that there are no new thoughts, no unexplored concepts – just new ways of expressing what has been previously thought. That is the historical equivalent of saying that History repeats itself only in different detail.

You see, for nearly as long as there has been representative government, people have gravitated toward factions or parties. We know England once had Whigs and Tories and is now dominated by a Labour Party and a Conservative Party. For the pre-Renaissance Florentines, there were the Guelfs and the Ghibellines. In time, the Ghibellines were driven out and the city was dominated by the Guelfs who, unable to live with success, internally feuded and brought partisanship to a new height with the formation of White Guelfs and their sworn adversaries: the Black Guelfs – so stark can be the differences of partisanship.

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First, Do No Harm

Tom Del Beccaro
Former Chairman of the California Republican Party and current candidate for U.S. Senate

The ongoing budget crisis certainly highlights the need for the long term reform of our Government. Among those reforms needed are (1) a true budget cap, (2) a two year budget cycle, (3) costs benefit analysis for programs, and (4) zero based funding. Given that the California budget has more than doubled since the early 90s, under Democrat and Republican Governors alike, and grew over 40% over the last 5 years, it should be rather obvious to all involved that institutional reform is required – not just different personnel.

The budget crisis, however, can’t wait for the long term solution. It is so critical that it requires a short term answer as well. Even so, in addressing that situation, the mantra should be: First – Do No Harm. As I wrote about in my article: The California Tax Deal & Why It Won’t Work".

Most politicians believe that by simply passing a law that raises tax rates – that more tax revenue flows automatically. That simply is not the case. If it was, then Churchill would have been wrong when he said: “A nation trying to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to pull himself up by the handles.”

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