California keeps falling more and more into debt, from the UC to pensions, and now prisons. Our state has consistently refused to live within its means. California has some of the highest tax rates, welfare payout rates and prison costs. To adapt a saying from professor Mark Perry, if you’re not familiar with the state of California, it’s a prison and public employee pension management organization that runs a state on the side with a large $19 billion deficit.
Measure S on the ballot Nov. 2 should not be passed because it doesn’t institute genuine prison reform but merely provides a temporary fix at the taxpayer’s expense. Moreover, instead of finding gaps within existing funds or creating a larger tax base, it forces taxes on citizens to the tune of $30 million a year for 14 years, subtracting money from the local economy. If the project were as vital to the community as it’s presented, funds would have been allocated earlier.
[media-credit id=20109 align=”alignleft” width=”165″][/media-credit]Prison reform should be top issue for California. Elected officials must bring down the cost of corrections to the norms of other states (prison comforts shouldn’t make you proud). First, it’s important to remember who is in jail and for what reason. Inmates who are driving up costs due to minor drug possession offenses are a burden on the system and such offenses should be decriminalized. However, California prison costs have increased nearly 50 percent since 2001, costing nearly $47,000 per year. Eight thousand three hundred dollars per year come from inmate health care alone. When compared to the $20,000 per year Florida spends, it would seem that California is obsessed with spending money on its inmates. Measure S would temporarily reduce strain on the prison system’s prisoners-to-beds ratio; however it would only be temporary, failing to address the roots of the problem.
Economically, Measure S doesn’t help anyone but the government; it provides only temporary relief from systemic failure. Even though the county is admirable for running a budget surplus, it needs to remember California citizens are already some of the highest taxed in the nation. Since government cannot create wealth, taking money from the private sector would hinder small businesses by making consumers pay higher prices for goods and services or discouraging them from doing so at all. According to the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business, the measure requires taxpayers to raise double the amount required for the prison project. Instead of punishing consumers with taxes, government should remove current barriers to growth and investment, which creates more jobs, a larger tax base and ultimately larger revenues.
All levels of California government are hurting for funds. Increasing taxes on goods and services isn’t the answer. Measure S puts the burden of government mismanagement on the taxpayers of Santa Barbara County instead of addressing the root causes of prison overcrowding such as excessive prison health care costs and hypercriminalization. Moreover, S takes capital away from small businesses that could use extra money to hire more employees, improve benefits and salaries or break into new markets, in turn creating more funds for such projects. Vote NO on measure S.