Taxes, Taxes and More Taxes
- Leftist tax increasing Democrats are on the march and some worthless "Conservative" Republicans are already going into hiding.
(San Jose Mercury News) - State lawmakers on Wednesday took the first steps toward raising taxes and fees on motorists and further restricting Californians' tobacco use as the Legislature convened special sessions aimed at solving the state's transportation and health care funding crises.
While significant, the party-line votes taken by the committees were merely an opening salvo in a battle between Democrats and Republicans that will play out over the next few weeks about the fairness of fixing California's crumbling roads and improving health care for the poor by imposing new taxes.
Because tax and fee increases require the support of two-thirds of lawmakers in both houses of the Legislature, Democrats seeking to raise taxes will need help from their GOP colleagues, some of whom have indicated they're open to hiking the gas tax for the first time in more than two decades -- as long as the money is restricted to transportation improvements.
Current revenue from California's 42.35-cent gas tax covers only a fraction of the state's annual highway repair needs.
Last week, business organizations such as the California Chamber of Commerce and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group said any deal should seek to raise at least $6 billion annually by raising gas and diesel taxes and increasing vehicle registration and license fees.
Republicans, he said, must be willing to make the leap for new tax revenue, and Democrats must be willing to make the leap for administrative reforms.
Brown will also be instrumental in lining up Republican votes for a new tax on managed health care plans as well as a $2-per-pack cigarette tax, which has been floated but not yet formally introduced by Democrats.
In a health-care financing committee hearing Wednesday afternoon, lawmakers approved a package of bills that aim to reduce the state's health care costs by reducing Californians' use of tobacco products.
The bill that regulates e-cigarettes like regular cigarettes, sponsored by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, had stalled in an Assembly committee whose members had accepted more than $170,000 in campaign contributions from the nation's two largest tobacco companies.
"We should be alarmed and infuriated that one of the fastest-growing segments of e-cigarette users is middle- and high-school students," Leno said. "This is about protecting children and saving lives."