By Dan Walters
Published: Friday, Mar. 16, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
During a stream-of-consciousness speech to a gathering of police chiefs this week, Jerry Brown noted that during his first governorship, personal income taxes generated about a third of the state’s revenue, but since have become a dominant source.
The result, he continued, was “more volatility” in the state’s revenue, which resulted in “a more or less constant state” of deficits.
That’s absolutely correct.
When income taxes spike upward, politicians and voters squander windfalls on difficult-to-lower spending, and when they plummet – as they always eventually do – the state is then left with multibillion-dollar gaps.
Brown told the top cops that he’s trying to “deleverage” by bringing state income and outgo into closer balance, citing the meltdown in Greece as an example of what happens when the two sides of the fiscal equation cleave apart.
A worthy goal.
Why, then, would Brown embrace a fiscal plan that would make the state’s revenue even more volatile by making them even more dependent on how well a handful of high-income Californians are doing in stocks and other speculative investments, while locking additional billions of dollars of spending into the state constitution?
The answer: political expediency.
Brown had touted “a balanced proposal” of temporary increases in sales and income taxes, coupled with some major spending reductions, but it was not polling well and faced competition from two other measures.
Two days after talking to the cops, he merged his campaign with one of his left-wing rivals, reducing the sales tax portion and sharply boosting taxes on a few hundred thousand high-income Californians that his new partners mock as “the 1 percent.”
Brown’s earlier plan would have increased income taxes to an estimated 62 percent of revenue.
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