Wednesday, November 12, 2008

California's Car Tax may be on the Road Again

From LA

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has shown he's capable of learning. Not every governor who rode into office on a no-new-taxes pledge would propose a sales-tax increase of 1.5%. He's right to insist that every solution to the state's fiscal crisis be on the table, so we're happy to pitch in with a suggestion -- bring back the car tax.

There, we said it. Again. California's leaders took a wrong turn in 1999 when they slashed the vehicle license fee, or car tax. The move frittered away a rare revenue surplus that should have been used instead to fix the state's structural deficit. The plan supposedly called for the rate to go back up during fiscal crises to the same level it had been since 1948 – 2% of vehicle value. But when then-Gov. Gray Davis tried to do just that, Schwarzenegger fanned voter anger and booted Davis from office.

It's not out of a sense of mischief that we now call on Schwarzenegger to bring the tax back to its historical level. Not solely, anyway. The car tax is a smarter choice than a sales tax for digging out of the current budget hole. Asking Californians to pitch in through their vehicle registration fees rather than at the cash register would have fewer negative effects on sales, which we can expect to be diminished too much already in the coming months.

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