Saturday, May 29, 2010

California Here We Come!

If you want an example of a modern, democratic government turned basket case you don't have to look any further than our neighbor to the south, California. No, this isn't an attack on their current governor. California's problems have been accumulating over a very long time. In 1978 Californians passed Proposition 13, placing great limits on the state's ability to tax its citizens. It did nothing, however, to limit their demand for services. It did nothing to stop population growth (and with it the need for schools, hospitals, roads - you name it). It simply hindered the government's ability to pay for all these things and it empowered an anti-tax sentiment that remains in force to this day. And which has reached a new vigor here in BC.

The provincial and federal governments are harmonizing their sales taxes. Currently we pay a 7 percent provincial sales tax and a 5 percent federal sales tax. We pay both taxes on most items, but not all. Come July 1 we will pay a single 12 percent harmonized sales tax. The government stands save a lot of money because it will only be administering one tax instead of two. The limited increases in some areas will be offset with tax credits in others so the overall effect will be neutral. You wouldn't know that, however, listening to the hysterics generated by the anti-HST campaign. And now that campaign has won enough signatures to force a vote, either in the legislature or a referendum.

Okay, we're a long way from California - yet! But I really can't shake off the thin-end-of-the-wedge feel to how things are shaping up. So, in order to avoid having BC dragged into the sort of fiscal chaos we see in Sacramento, I have a proposal. Victoria should send a questionnaire to everyone who has signed the petition asking them to name the government services they want themselves and their families to be excluded from. This would save us all from the free lunch mentality that so many of these anti-tax activists decry in other people, while refusing to see it in themselves and save British Columbia from a future we can already see being played out in California. Fair is fair, after all.

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