Whenever someone would do or say something that was outlandish and grossly overreaching, my grandmother would say: “That takes crust.” I think she would have used that phrase to characterize the latest scheme developed by California lawmakers to try to close a huge budget shortfall. They have announced that they will increase, by 10 percent, the state income tax withholding from the paychecks of California workers. They won’t increase the underlying taxes, mind you — they know that to do so would be political suicide — so they will just keep more of the taxpayers’ money and then repay it later, without paying any interest, when refunds are distributed out next year. In effect, California lawmakers are taking an enormous, interest free loan from California workers during these very difficult economic times, when workers can least afford it.
It is hard to imagine a more gutless gimmick to try to close a budget deficit while minimizing political risk. Rather than make the hard choices about cutting spending or raising taxes, California lawmakers have found a craven and weaselly solution that allows them to increase revenue while still being able to claim that they haven’t raised taxes. I certainly hope that California voters stand up for themselves at the next opportunity and throw out the legislators who concocted and supported such a duplicitous scheme. The lengths to which the California legislature will go to raid the pockets of taxpayers should cause any rational taxpayer to think of fleeing the state for a destination where the government has some modicum of respect for private property and the rule of law.