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Berryhill 2015 Legislature Wrap Up

In mid-September the legislature recessed until January. Any legislation that was going to move forward this year had to be passed by both houses and sent to the governor for his signature or vetoed by midnight on October 11. If a measure is not vetoed it automatically becomes law.

There were many issues—climate change, medical marijuana, and end of life choices—that dominated the news cycle, but I wanted to draw your attention to a topic that ultimately has a greater impact on middle class Californians. Taxes.

While state spending is at a record high (this year’s budget spends $265 billion, which includes an unanticipated $10 billion windfall), the governor and legislative leadership did not prioritize spending for important programs such as roads, highways, services for the developmentally disabled, and access to health care for the lowest income and neediest Californians.

What they did do was spend billions of dollars on pet projects—like pay raises for public employees—and then insist more taxes were needed for the programs “shorted” in the budget.

Just this session the following taxes were proposed by the governor and Democrats in Sacramento:

  • Taxing health plans–which would have meant higher health insurance rates for 24 million Californians
  • A new $2 per pack tax on tobacco
  • A new tax on alcoholic beverages
  • A six cent per gallon increase in the gas tax
  • A 12 cent per gallon increase in the diesel tax
  • A $65 hike in vehicle registration “fees”
  • A new $75 “fee” on real estate transactions
  • A new $100 “fee” for owners of electric cars

All of these proposed taxes were defeated, but every year we fight this battle. No matter how much money is available, it is never enough for some of my colleagues. Taxpayers provide more than enough money to fund essential programs. This year, the state collected $10 billion in unexpected revenues, and yet the governor and Democrats wanted to collect even more with new taxes. Having enough money is not the state’s problem, prioritizing how existing dollars are spent and being transparent with the decision-making process is.