Friday, May 22, 2009

Fight the Big Fight, CTA

You and I pay our taxes dutifully whether we have a good year or bad year, but California corporations only pay meaningful taxes (more than the minimal franchise tax) if they show a profit. And it only takes a few accounting tricks to erase a profit. Angry? Me, too. Now, let’s organize.

With estimates of this year’s budget deficit soaring to $24 Billion, state legislators are already shredding every bit of human decency and good government that is left in the state budget. California needs a fair tax policy and a new budget process. CTA is the organization that must lead the fight.

We can almost repeat like a mantra the things that are wrong with California’s political process: two-thirds budget requirement --  two-thirds local property tax approval requirement, Prop. 13, and no taxes on internet sales --  all wound up in an impossible constitution. The truth is that CTA can’t defend public education unless we fight for fair taxes and a fair budget process in California.

Of course, the anti-tax crowd is big and powerful. Beyond the Republicans in the legislature and the Howard Jarvis people who brought us Prop. 13, California corporations have been benefiting from our broken budget process and maligned tax policies for years, and won’t give up their legalized thievery willingly.  San Francisco Assessor Phil Ting wrote that the property tax contributions from corporations have declined steadily and dramatically since Prop. 13 was passed.   Meanwhile, the California Budget Project shows that both corporate income tax collections and the state sales tax collections have been steadily declining.

CTA might be the only statewide organization that has a strong enough core of local activists and staff in every community to take on these anti-taxers. With the strength of this grassroots base added to its powerful media and lobbying machine, CTA can move a political agenda like no other organization in the State -- if the fight strikes a chord with members.

The good news is that we have the moral high ground here. How can a state with so much accumulated wealth fail to provide quality education, health care, housing and transportation to all of its people? But we have to act fast to solidify our base of supportive legislators, then go on the attack and expose every indecent loophole and dysfunctional mandate in California’s budget process. One thing that is clear, there are a lot of outraged CTA members who are willing to fight this fight in their local communities. That is the most important asset we have.

Our state does not have to be broken. The fundamental fight on California’s tax policy is more important to teachers in California than any policy-wonk assessment-and-curriculum discussions being heard by any legislative committee.

For the sake or our schools, as well as our transportation systems, hospitals, senior care networks and the well being of our environment, the people of California need CTA to lead a fair tax and good government fight.