Laura Wells: Open Letter to Governor Jerry Brown

by Laura Wells on Solutions

I just heard your voice on the radio saying, “That’s where the money is!” The reference was to the oft-quoted answer to the question, “Why do you rob banks?”

That little joke, right there, points to the heart of our budget disasters and to the thinking that keeps the disasters in place.

Where is the money? In cuts to public education? In cuts to welfare and childcare? No, the money is in the hands of the super rich. Not in public schools where California’s spending is near the bottom of all the states.

Every single time that you – and all of your colleagues in the huge majority the Democratic Party holds in Sacramento – speak about the budget you have a chance to improve the system, or not. Every time you speak and do not condemn the two-thirds majority required to increase taxes, you are selling out the 99% and pandering to the 1%.

I cannot wait until representatives in Sacramento – the current batch or new ones we will elect – catch up with the rest of us. The social movements have shifted from the plea of “Stop The Cuts” to demanding the solution, “Tax The Rich.”

Statistics are readily available to explain to people who love old Prop 13 and its two-thirds vote requirement that their love is misplaced.

Explain that California has 85 billionaires with a total wealth of $287 billion. Only 3.5% of that wealth would close a state budget gap of $10 billion. And although it would be a hardship for 7 people since they would no longer be billionaires, and would only have $900 million, they would probably get that 3.5% back within a year. And California would not have to cut welfare, childcare, and schools.

Explain facts the California Budget Project gives us every year: when you look at family income, the poorest 20% pay more in state and local taxes than the richest 1%. Those who average $12,600 pay 11.1% and those who average $2.3 million pay 7.8%. That’s where the money is. Wealth like that used to be taxed at higher rates, and in those times people could still get richer.

Explain that a bipartisan budget agreement in favor of the 99% will never be reached when slightly more than 1/3 of California legislators have signed a pledge that they will never vote to raise taxes. The 2/3 requirement gives that 1/3 minority veto power over taxing the rich. The only bipartisan budget agreement operating right now is the silence about the rotten parts of old Proposition 13.

You were Governor in 1978 when Proposition 13, with all of its damaging unintended consequences (unintended by the voters), was voted into law. It is only fitting that you should undo its damage now.

Sincerely,

Laura Wells

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