Dynamist Blog

What Do We Get For the Money?

As California experiences (yet another) budget crisis and Democrats push (yet again) for big tax increases, John G. Matsusaka of USC points out a major reason why the public obstinately demands more services while refusing more taxes: While spending has skyrocketed, services haven't--at least not in ways that people notice. Money quote:

Voters are criticized for wanting more services yet being unwilling to pay higher taxes. That is unfair; Californians have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to fund valuable programs. But if spending can go up 40% and most of us can't discern any difference, can we blame voters for being hesitant to put even more tax money in the hands of the state?

If you live in--or care about--California, you should read the whole thing.

UPDATE: On a related note, the SacBee's Dan Walters points out a bait-and-switch by L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The city more than doubled residential garbage fees, supposedly to put 1,000 more cops on the street. The fee increase raised $137 million, but the city hired only 400 more cops at a cost of about $42 million. Most of the rest went for raises. Walters writes:

Most of the trash money was diverted into underwriting the city's cash-strapped general fund, which includes those generous raises for cops already on the street. And that's just the beginning of the tale. Los Angeles faces a whopping budget deficit, despite the trash fee, and Villaraigosa and the City Council want to raise trash fees even higher to cover the shortfall, along with boosting a batch of other fees.

Villaraigosa also is promoting a countywide sales tax hike devoted to improving mass transit. The council has approved a "parcel tax" on homes and businesses for the November ballot that would finance anti-gang programs.

The amounts of money are not huge, but one wonders whether Villaraigosa and other city leaders are overreaching by proposing a wide array of new fees and taxes while recession is hitting the state and Southern California is being hammered especially hard.

What's happening in the state's largest city echoes what's happening in Sacramento as Schwarzenegger and lawmakers struggle with a $15.2 billion general fund budget deficit and Democrats propose $8.2 billion in new taxes, plus several billion in other revenues, to close the gap.

Oh yeah, and why is this in the Sacramento Bee instead of the LAT?

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