June 27, 2003

Commentary

A California Tax Nightmare

By Senator Dennis Hollingsworth

“An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, the power to destroy.”
—Daniel Webster

“The other night I lay sleepin’ and awoke from a terrible dream.”
— George Thorogood and the Destroyers

It’s well known Governor Davis has proposed $8.2 billion in tax increases to fix a $38 billion budget deficit caused by his and Democrats’ overspending. His proposal increases taxes on retail sales, tobacco, the “rich,” and triples the car tax.

But Democrats have also proposed, according to the California Taxpayers’ Association, more than $50 billion in a myriad of other new taxes. They’re calling them “fees” because taxes require a two-thirds vote under the state Constitution, meaning some Republicans would have to vote for them, which they have opposed.

Recently a friend related a dream he’d had, after falling asleep worrying what a typical day might be like if Democrats get those new taxes.

In his dream my friend awoke, turned on his newly taxed light bulb, and found the local water district had installed a coin slot on the bathroom to pay for the new water tax and the new tax on sewer plants. While dressing he was reminded of the price hike for his dry cleaning to pay for the tax on dry cleaning supplies.

In the kitchen where the bills lay stacked, he wondered how to pay the new fees at his mother’s nursing home, or the parcel taxes for fire protection and trauma centers. He thumbed through the phone bill, (new taxes of .25 percent and for 911) electric bill, (new imported electricity tax) and insurance bill (earthquake tax). His wife reminded him their daughter had called needing more money for the increased fees at college and about the new fees at day care for their youngest.

Outside, he discovered his SUV had been impounded. After the increased gas tax (and a new tax on oil) there was nothing left to pay the tripled registration fee, or the “SUV global warming impact” tax, and the police had towed it away. It was probably better, since it hadn’t been washed due to the car wash’s “registration fee” and storm-water fees. And since he couldn’t afford the more than doubled drivers license fees and that little fender bender lawsuit, reminding him of the increased court fees and a new $20 fee per civil case.

He called to rent a car and found out about that new tax. Frustrated, he called his neighbor, an accountant, to see if he could car pool to work.

He found his neighbor had moved to Arizona to avoid the new city income tax and the sales tax on his services. “I can’t compete with the out-of-state guys with this new tax on labor. Besides, the hunting is better, and I don’t have to pay the new per rifle tax or the higher hunting license fees. See ya’,” said the final message on his neighbor’s phone.

He called his boss who said he had been replaced by a temporary employee service. “What about that new tax on temps?” he protested. The boss said he was aware of that. But with the higher workers’ compensation premiums and all the new mandates and costs like universal health coverage for full time employees, the tax on wood products for the new desks, etc, it would cost too much to keep him.

Depressed, he emailed his brother in Michigan and saw his Internet service provider had emailed that the state was looking for him. He had purchased a book online and not forwarded the required Internet sales tax. “As a California subscriber, we have been notified that you recently upgraded your monitor. Don’t forget to pay your state mandated recycling fee for your old screen,” the message concluded. He also remembered the guy at the computer store telling him about the increased cost from the new mine tax on the raw materials for the computer.

Deciding to stay home, he realized he had no satellite TV, since the new twenty percent tax had made it too pricey. Feeling blue, he called his therapist and heard a message about the new fees on psychiatrists and medical licenses.

Instead he went to the library, finding a new fee tacked onto his library card. Then to a park where the ranger told him about the increased entry fee and the fee they had to pass on for the dam tax. “You’re not kidding,” he said, walking away.

Driven to drink, he walked to a grocer —to find new taxes on beer. So he opted for soda. Hadn’t he heard of the new soda tax? “Just water, then!”

“Well there’s a new tax on that and the bottle recycling fee has doubled.” He pulled out his money. “There’s a charge for the plastic bag. State’s charging me a new fee.” He walked out as the clerk explained the new diaper tax to a young mother.

Taking heart, he decided to take in a baseball game only to find a new tax on his ticket. “It’s not just the Great American Pastime,” the window agent told him, “sporting events –concerts; all that stuff.”

In total despair, he knelt on the concrete, ready to bash his head. “Be careful, they just taxed that concrete. And stay off the grass, the groundskeeper said there’s new taxes on the pesticides for that sod!” he heard from the window.

Deciding death was the only way to get away from all the new taxes he pulled out his gun to end it all. A police officer, seeing the glint of the gun, pulled over. “You pay the tax on the bullets in that thing?” He heard from the squad car. “Yes,” he mumbled through his tears. “Oh, and, if you go ahead with what it looks like there, you better pay that new tax before you do,” My friend couldn’t believe his ears. “But I’ll be dead. How could they tax me when I’m already gone?”

“Well” the cop replied, “We’ll have to I.D. your body by doing a DNA test, and those politicians running Sacramento just taxed those.”

As usual, my friend’s nightmare ended before his dream-death, but with Democrats dead-set on finding a way around the Constitution and Republican opposition to tax increases, his nightmare may just be beginning.

According to political philosopher H.L. Mencken, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know exactly what they want and deserve to get it —good and hard.” With tax loving Democrats in control of the Senate and Assembly and a Democrat governor, that may be the unfortunate end result for all Californians.

Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta) is the State Senator for the 36th District, which includes portions of San Diego and Riverside Counties, and is the chairman of the Senate’s Taxpayer Protection Caucus, which lately doesn’t help him sleep better at night.

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