Every burned town is tragic. But Newsom needs to lead with science, not sentiment.
Last week, in an attempt to address rising inequality, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new progressive income tax to replace the state’s controversial gasoline tax and a 10% sales tax to fund universal health coverage.
Such measures would be a very good thing — progress is always better than regression. But Newsom chose the wrong moment for his announcement. He needs to make something that is truly progressive, not merely a modest incremental increase in taxes on the wealthy.
So far, Newsom’s new income tax proposal has no one to blame but himself. Newsom is trying to convince Californians that the state’s income tax system is unconstitutional. This is not the right approach. The state Constitution makes clear that the only way to raise revenue is through direct taxation. And Newsom’s new tax proposal would make California’s system even worse.
Newsom’s new tax has been in the works for almost two years. He introduced it during the 2018 Assembly session, but it wasn’t acted on until after the end of the session. He had hoped that a Democratic governor would allow Democrats to bring it up for a vote in the Assembly. But a Democratic Assembly majority would have been unlikely to oppose it and would have needed Democratic votes to overcome a veto by Republican Ed Royce, who had sponsored the tax legislation. Newsom’s new tax would not have passed anyway; Democratic support for it was limited to 12 of the state’s 120 members.
So Newsom’s tax proposal now faces a different fate than the gasoline tax. The gasoline tax is illegal in California and so is Newsom’s new income tax. But what’s not illegal is the fact that the majority of voters in California want this tax increase and that a majority of Democrats in the state Senate support it. To be fair, there is really no reason to vote against the gasoline tax, which would make California