10/17/2021

Steven Greenhut: State’s Fiscal Fate in High Court’s Hands

The latest California craziness to make national news is the Public Utilities Commission’s plan to vote next month on a tax on cellphone text messaging to help fund phone programs for the poor. It is the latest example of our state’s undying commitment to taxing virtually anything we do. The state general fund has $15 billion in surpluses. Officials throughout the country don’t let any crisis go to waste, and use tough times to grab more tax revenue. In California, our political leadership doesn’t even wait for a crisis. It’s always time to raise taxes!

But however emblematic the text-tax hearings have been, the real fiscal news this month has garnered little national attention. That’s too bad because the results of the California Supreme Court’s deliberations on an arcane-sounding case involving a little-known gimmick known as “air time” could determine the state’s economic future. If the court doesn’t uphold a 2013 pension-reform law and do so in a far-reaching manner, then California localities will be left with no realistic means to rein in the pension monster that is consuming their budgets.

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