In 1987, it was the talk of the South Bay neighborhood where my parents lived: a tax rebate check of $236 from the state government for every household up and down the street. My mother was delighted. At the time, my sister was going to UCLA and living on campus, so the check came in handy. The tax rebate was the idea of then-governor George Deukmejian. After inheriting a $1.5 billion budget deficit left by Jerry Brown, the “Duke” wiped out the red ink off California’s books and was later able to refund more than $1 billion back to California taxpayers.
For the families of my old neighborhood – that was a real Parents Agenda.
Fast forward to 2019 to Gov. Newsom’s Parents Agenda. Newsom’s proposed sales tax exemptions for diapers and menstrual products causes me to blush for more reasons than one. His office cites in the official press release that families with small children spend $1,200 on diapers annually and that women spend $7 a month on products. By my math, using California’s highest sales tax rate of 9.5 percent, that means a savings of $122 annually for a portion of California’s population. So much for all the fanfare. Contrast that to Deukmejian’s tax rebate, which in today’s dollars is now $536 according to usinflationcalculator.com.
Newsom’s Parents Agenda also proposes to spend $134 million to expand childcare programs and give families with children under age six a tax credit of $1,000. Both are laudable, but as Right by the Bay has argued again and again, cutting taxes for everyone and trusting people to decide how best to spend their own money is the best way to increase prosperity for all Californians. Providing tax relief or benefits for select groups like parents with babies, parents with children under six, and women in their childbearing years leaves out the millions of Californians who are also struggling with the state’s high cost of living.
When the Duke passed, the Orange County Register wrote that the tax rebate was, “a move not seen since and unlikely to be seen for some time.” But many Californians more than three decades later – including my mother – still recall Deukmejian’s bold move with gratitude. My fellow blogger Kerry Jackson wrote that if Newsom wants to be the greatest governor ever in California, he should repeal the California Environmental Quality Act. If he wants to be remembered in history, he should cut taxes for all Californians.
Rowena Itchon is senior vice president of Pacific Research Institute.