Wilk: Time for tax promises to be kept; just don’t hold your breath

Also published at the Santa Clarita Valley Beacon and Victorville Daily Press

No one likes paying taxes. But it is insulting when the government we trust with our hard earned dollars wastes, mismanages, redirects and redistributes our money to where we never see a return on our investment. Business as usual in the State Capitol.

Sacramento politicians, arrogant with their supermajority status, have made misleading and misdirecting the public an art form.  In fact, it has become the status quo.

Take California’s new gas tax for example; we know it will cost taxpayers $5.2 billion per year. But make no mistake, that burden will be borne mostly by the Californians who are forced to make long commutes just to make a living, or those who cannot afford luxury zero emission vehicles.

With Californians paying registration fee increases of 48 dollars per car, and an additional 12 cents per gallon on gasoline at the pump - unless you drive a diesel that’ll cost about 20 cents more per gallon - the price of commuting will soon skyrocket.

Even more disturbing, the so-called lockbox ensuring this money goes only to transportation projects was intentionally left open. There are actually few guarantees built in to the new gas tax which will require Governor Brown to spend its revenue on roads. In a dishonest political maneuver all too common today, the Governor has already proposed siphoning 30% of the funds away from transportation, redistributing them to pet projects and satisfying his need for statist social engineering. As for the Legislature? It goes merrily along with his ruse.

Here’s another example: Last fall when voters approved Proposition 56, the new $2-per-pack tobacco tax, we were promised the money would be spent on raising Medi-Cal reimbursement rates, and in the process address the shortage of healthcare providers. After all, the lack of access to doctors is one of the worst healthcare problems facing our state’s low and middle income residents. But that tax too contained little guarantee on how the money is spent; once again the promises were empty.

In the 21st Senate District there are 417,056 Medi-Cal recipients. But that coverage amounts to little more than a hunting license as patients, especially in low-income or rural areas, are forced to engage in lengthy searches or travel long miles to find a provider willing to treat them at Medi-Cal rates.  

California’s reimbursement rate for Medi-Cal doctors and dentists is so low it barely covers the provider’s expenses. In fact, California’s reimbursement rates are among the lowest in the nation; lower than Texas, Mississippi or West Virginia. As a result, many doctors no longer take Medi-Cal patients, leaving some areas of the state provider ‘deserts.’

Prop. 56 proponents promised the new tobacco tax would solve the problem, and voters took the bait. But here we go again. Governor Brown has now chosen to redirect over $1.2 billion of that money to plug holes in the  state’s General Fund  instead of expanding, as promised, access to dental and health care for our  citizens most in need.

This is not the quality of leadership we should accept from our state’s top officials. We’re kind enough to fork over our hard earned money and it’s time for our government to start keeping its end of the deal. As we go through the budget process over the next weeks, I will be keeping a watchful eye on where our money goes while holding my colleagues accountable for their promises to the voters.

I implore Governor Brown, the Legislature and every Californian to fight for tax spending accountability and to bring an end to this trend of government thievery; robbing the coffers of our state’s tax revenues and using them as they please, and not as they promise.