This year, you and I will be asked to support a litany of tax measures. There's only one I plan to support: The continuation of the eighth-cent sales tax that fund the Stanislaus County library system until 2018.
I see it as a positive special tax. Measure T, on the June 5 ballot, is crucial for the continued operation of the main library and its 12 branches. Voters in 1995, 1999, and 2004 have supported the library tax in the county by overwhelming majorities. A two-thirds majority is required for passage. Today the special library tax accounts for 87 percent of library revenues.
Keeping our libraries open is a no-brainer. The benefits far outweigh the costs of the tax, which equates to about $1.66 per month per household, or about $20 per year. By contrast, the average American spends $2.68 per month on public libraries.
Seeing how the county has been stripped of revenues and how much slashing has been done in response, I trust County Supervisor Vito Chiesa when he says the library system "could not exist in any recognizable form" without the Measure T revenue.
Besides making available books, magazines and videos, the library system is helping to fight illiteracy - Stanislaus County has a quarter to a third of its population as functionally illiterate - by supporting adult reading programs, training nearly 1,500 students thus far. The library has also offer Internet access, job search help, reference materials, and reference assistance - all new services as a result of the 1995 tax.
Yes, the library tax is a frugal but wise investment. It gets my support hands down.
However, voters should not reward politicians who haven't learned the lesson, who won't cut spending in perpetuity to loss of revenue and who push an agenda of punishing successful people and creating class envy. I'm talking about Jerry Brown's quest to continue taxes on wealthier Californians which are scheduled to sunset.
As Democrats beat the drum about rich people not paying their "fair share of taxes," they won't mention to you that half of Americans pay no federal income taxes at all. Care to guess who doesn't pay taxes? The poor and middle class, those who take advantage of tax loopholes, and seniors - not the rich. Truthfully, you could implement a 100 percent tax on the top 1 percent of income earners in America and not come close in taking care of the federal budget deficit.
The biggest income tax bills go to Californians making $200,000 or more. Although they represent only 4 percent of the population, they make nearly 40 percent of the state's taxable income and as a result pay 61 percent of its income taxes.
Sacramento hasn't streamlined and slashed enough. So no more taxes is my vote.
I'll also be voting no - heck no - on Prop. 29, another government taking of people's money through a tobacco tax. If you'll recall, liberal actor Rob "Meathead" Reiner campaigned for Californians to pass a 50-cent-per-pack tax hike on cigarettes in Prop. 10 in 1998. The funds were spent on early childhood development services which effectually have done nothing to improve the status of children in California.
Tobacco and smokers are an easy target for tax-and-spend liberals. They already pay 87 cents tax per pack on taxes. Cigars, smoking tobacco, chewing tobacco, and snuff are taxed at a rate of 31.73 percent. If passed, the new tax imposes another $1 per pack in taxes, and an equivalent tax increase on other tobacco products, to fund cancer research and other specified purposes.
I have a problem with government - or voters - taxing products they don't like as a way to coerce behavior. It's anti freedom. The mindset is they are doing something harmful to themselves, so why not stick it to them? But what if future politicians decide to wage war on other habits they don't like. Such as, why not tax people who eat too much and who are obesity? We'll call it a "fat tax" and spend the revenue on child programs. Why not tax people who ride motorcycles? Or people who buy pornography? Where does this taxation madness end? Cigarette smokers don't deserve any more taxes than do people who buy buckets of lard at the store.
In supporting Prop. 29, Oakdale resident Kevin Brunk said, "everyone has been touched by the tragedy of cancer. I myself am a survivor...and I'll tell you, if this $1 could save just one life, wouldn't it be worth it?" So, as Mr. Brunk frames it, if you are against the tax, you're for cancer. Hardly. Already we are paying over $30 billion a year on cancer research.
Linda Ferry, a researcher at Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Veterans Center and professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health, seems to think the higher price will prevent many people from buying it. Who's kidding who? It will do nothing of the sort. Does anyone really think people stopped drinking because of the ban during Prohibition?
Don't reward wrong behaviors this election year. And if you ask me, those who use taxes as a weapon are dangerous people.