By Jeff Girod
California raked in $4.5 billion over what was expected in state income tax this year, according to state officials. Nearly $2.8 billion arrived on April 17, the third-highest collection day in state history.
$4.5 billion . . . Just think of the things I could monogram or eventually divorce.
But before you start building hotels on Park Place . . .
Governor Jerry Brown—ol‘ Mister Gloom ‘n’ Doom himself and the first guy to ruin a quality champagne regatta—was scheduled to release his revised budget plan on Tuesday. Here’s a hint: Nobody’s getting ponies.
In fact, Brown would like to remind everyone that California is still reeling from crippling debt. How much debt? $28 billion to be exact—or as exact as you can be in a state that just accidentally found an extra $4.5 billion. (Somebody forgot to carry 4 million ones.)
It doesn’t matter how much money anyone saves, scrounges and scrimps, the governor won’t let us see a dime of that $4.5 billion surplus. The surplus money will most likely be re-invested in schools or roads or healthcare, or some catch-all, indiscriminate boring word such as “infrastructure.”
What does infrastructure even mean? I think they just put that “infra-” on the front of it so we won’t ask too many questions.
For all we know Jerry Brown won’t re-invest it or pay down the state debt. He might as well stack the $4.5 billion in a giant pile and light it on fire. There’s no way to prove anything. (There probably is a way to prove it. But any number more than 11 gives me a headache.)
Maybe Jerry spent the $4.5 billion on the world’s longest hoagie, or the bitchenist life-sized replica of the Batmobile. Or maybe that wasn’t even Jerry Brown at the press conference and he’s already spent the $4.5 billion on a Jerry-Brown look-alike cyborg. (In which case, I’d like to say: Bravo, robo-Jerry!)
It’s also concerning that Governor Brown thinks our debt problem is fixable, or that we should try to fix it all, if the person still adding and subtracting all of the numbers screwed up this year’s final tally by 4.5 billion.
Maybe we don’t have a debt problem at all. Maybe Jerry Brown just has a really shitty accountant.
As voters we get blamed whenever there’s a deficit and we never get credit when there’s money left over—as if we have any idea how taxes work in the first place.
The only reason I pay taxes is so I won’t go to federal prison for tax evasion. Whose great idea was taxes anyway? Welcome to working every day for the rest of your life for three-fifths of every paycheck. Hooray!
Better we all dig moats around our houses, drive covered wagons across cobbled roads and take our chances against the plague. At least we’d get to keep all our stuff.
And sales tax is like a kick in the nalgas each and every time. It’s why a $2,000 TV costs closer to $3,000 and why you’ll never pay off your ’97 Hyundai Sonata.
Sales tax doesn’t even buy anything tangible. It’s just this invisible 10th-grade math problem you have to endure every time before you can buy anything.
Tax laws vary—county, state and federal—so nobody’s quite sure if we’re ever paying the right amount. Whenever the cashier at Vons rings up my total, I just hand over my debit card, smile and wait for her to screw up my last name.
Just once I’d like to see Governor Brown take the $4.5 billion and do something completely irresponsible and totally worthwhile.
Buy Nevada and rename it East California. Give every state citizen a racecar bed. Put a minor league roller hockey team in every California city that ends in “y.” Devote all $4.5 billion to airing new episodes of Seinfeld . . . and destroying all of the CSIs.
I’m not saying it would make a California a better state, but at least I could point at my racecar bed or my roller hockey poster and think, “My taxes bought that.”
And that’s all you can ask of any governor—even a cyborg.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org.