California legislature attacks the biggest issue it can handle

posted at 2:55 pm on January 29, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

California is drowning in debt, thanks to a decades-long spending binge and a tax system practically designed for failure during recessions.  Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has demanded cuts in spending while hinting to Congress and the White House for a multi-billion-dollar bailout.  Under those circumstances, one might expect the state legislature to focus on regaining its fiscal health more than petty social engineering.  But just as with their laser-like focus on the plague of cow-tail abuse and the apology to 19th-century Chinese workers last year, Sacramento is once again making its irrelevance and incompetent leadership plain to see:

State lawmakers are taking aim at what some of them see as a menace to California’s environment: free parking.

There is too much of it, the legislators say, and it encourages people to drive instead of taking the bus, walking or riding a bike. All that motoring is contributing to traffic jams and pollution, according to state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), and on Thursday he won Senate approval of a proposal he hopes will prompt cities and businesses to reduce the availability of free parking. …

The bill, supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Sierra Club, provides financial incentives for cities and counties to stop providing free parking on the street and at government offices and to reduce the amount they require businesses to provide.

So the state — which is bankrupt and occasionally pays its bills in IOUs — will send subsidies to locales that eliminate free parking.  What that means is that Californians will actually subsidize an increase in fees.  They’ll pay twice every time they park: once with the subsidies, and once again to park where it used to cost nothing to do so.

Advocates argue that free parking isn’t really free, because business have to maintain parking lots, as do government offices.  But those costs get figured into the cost of the goods and services provided, especially in the private sector.  What’s more, the costs get passed only to the consumers who choose to frequent the stores.  By providing financial incentives such as tax breaks, everyone has to pay for the parking spots that disappear through the lost tax revenue of the incentives, which will have to be made up elsewhere.

Even if this was good policy — which it isn’t — the priorities of the state legislature seem just as askew as a broken cow tail.  Two years into a budget crisis, the state seems a lot more interested in sticking to the taxpayer for their own idea of social engineering instead of fixing the mess they have made of the state budget.

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Come to Alaska :) end of May, start of June is EXCELLENT!upinak on January 29, 2010 at 4:01 PM

Very OT however I always wanted to take a trip to Alaska. I heard it is absolutely beautiful.Any tip on the places to go, things to see?

F15Mech on January 29, 2010 at 11:07 PM

Pardon the above formatting. I am not sure what happened. It looked fine in the preview.

F15Mech on January 29, 2010 at 11:12 PM

The bill, supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Sierra Club, provides financial incentives for cities and counties to stop providing free parking on the street and at government offices and to reduce the amount they require businesses to provide

Okay, so just how many times and in how many ways will we be forced to pay for government buildings?It feels like a riff on an old saying “The beatings taxes will continue (to be raised) until morale improves.”

NTropy on January 30, 2010 at 12:54 AM

I grew up on a farm I bought one and had a share cropper. As a published economist, I just had idea. How about Californian using water and turning crop land back into agriculture.? Plants even clean the air of the toxins they claim hurt us. Sen Reid is clamoring for a high speed train to Vegas from LA> They could put a heavy tax on tickets and raise money. Of course every single passenger rail system in America is bleeding and run mostly on subsidies.

seven on January 30, 2010 at 10:07 AM

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the Cal legislature just passed a new single payer health care system for the entire state!

Now of course they only have scant few details about it, but the general idea is to take all of the current federal health care money they get, the current state health care money, and add a measly 200 billion per year to it for funding. And as usual, government and union workers are magically excluded from this system. I am not clear on how they can call this single payer if they have exclusions, but intelligent word use is not part of the California legislature job description.

With the current tax structure raising 80 billion a year, and falling short by 20 billion this very month, this means they will need to increase every tax and fee in the state by a factor of 250% if their estimates are accurate!

This would mean a nice hefty 35 cent sales tax to go with a top tax bracket of 35%, as well as similar percentage increases in all of the rest of the state income and corporate taxes.

Now for those that think they can just ‘tax the rich’ to get this, well, to do that they would need to increase the top state bracket to 50%+. Unfortunatly, since this would run the combined federal/state/soc sec/medicare tax basis for those people to more than 100%, it seems unlikely they could go that route.

And you thought a little parking spot feeing was a big deal to these incompetant idiots we have in the state government!

Freddy on January 30, 2010 at 9:13 PM