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If only we could tax more

As California teeters, Democrats are left to contemplate how this living laboratory of liberalism — with its smothering taxes, intrusive regulatory apparatus, generous social services and well-fed, heavily unionized public sector — could now find itself on the brink of collapse.

Rather than conclude the obvious — that decade after decade of high-tax, anti-business, anti-growth policymaking designed to sate an ever-expanding state is ultimately unsustainable — a handful of liberals have found their culprit: Proposition 13, a measure limiting property taxes passed by voters in 1978.

Time magazine calls it the “root of California’s misery.” Leftist commentator Harold Meyerson argues that Prop 13 started the state down “the road to insolvency.”

What a joke.

To believe this twaddle, you’d have to believe that California has been hamstrung in terms of raising tax revenues since 1978 thanks to the restraints imposed by Prop 13. That’s nonsense. California remains one of the highest taxing states in the nation, with an income tax burden that can hit 10 percent. Even property tax collections have gone up consistently since 1980, increasing — on average — a healthy 7 percent per year in Los Angeles County alone.

According to the Tax Foundation in Washington, D.C., California residents suffered the 11th highest tax burden in the nation in 2008.

The group also put California’s business climate at 48th in the nation and noted that its top individual income tax rate is the highest in all the land.

“Supporters of increased state spending have spent 31 years trying to make Proposition 13 the boogeyman,” writes Joel Fox, former president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, in a Los Angeles Times commentary. “The measure has been held responsible for a freeway collapse during an earthquake and even for O.J. Simpson’s not-guilty verdict in the 1995 criminal trial. But for a great majority of Californians, the bogeyman label doesn’t stick.”

That’s because the label is flat-out wrong. And if California’s spending class had actually heeded the message voters sent when they passed Proposition 13 more than 30 years ago, the buffoons in Sacramento wouldn’t find themselves today scrambling to shore up this house of cards.

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