“It all belongs to us” could be the mission statement of some public employee unions in California as they seek legislation to raise taxes in midst of the economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and response.
The Education Coalition, a group of nine statewide K-12 associations that represent teachers, administrators and other school employees, called on state lawmakers this week to “adopt additional revenue streams” to close what the groups say is a $20-billion budget shortfall for education.
The 2021-22 education budget signed by the governor includes $12.5 billion in deferred payments, as well as a projected reduction in the share of revenue that goes to schools under Proposition 98
The unions want the Legislature to eliminate what they call “tax expenditures,” defined as any deductions, tax credits, exemptions or exclusions that reduce taxes. Never mind that some of these provisions were enacted to incentivize desired actions, or that some were negotiated in order to pass legislation that otherwise would have been defeated. The unions’ point of view is that the high tax rates in state law are the “fair share,” and any provisions in law that reduce taxes are “unfair” to the schools.
The unions also want the high tax rates to be even higher. “The Education Coalition looks forward to working with the Legislature and the Administration in identifying and securing these revenues,” the California Teachers Association said in a statement.
Some of the tax increases on the wish list have already been introduced as legislation. Assembly Bill 1253 would raise the state’s highest-in-the-nation top income tax rate from 13.3 percent to 16.8 percent. Another bill would enact a wealth tax that would impose an annual tax of 0.4 percent of a state resident’s “worldwide net worth in excess of $30,000,000, or in excess of $15,000,000 in the case of a married taxpayer filing separately.” This may sound like a document from the Kremlin archives, but it’s Assembly Bill 2088 in the Legislature.
Because of California’s progressive income tax, 0.5 percent of taxpayers pay more than 40 percent of individual income taxes in the state. That sounds like more than a “fair share,” but for some union leaders, nothing less than “all of it” will ever be enough.
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