Thursday, April 2, 2009

Who's minding the store?

Turns out that Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state Legislature weren't pulling an April Fool's prank on the state of California.

The state sales tax really did rise by another 1% percent on Wednesday. In Los Angeles County, we're now paying 9.25% sales tax: one of the highest rates in the nation.

I'd like to offer a heartfelt apology for any role that I may have played in forcing the governor and legislators to resort to an across-the-board tax hike to help replenish the state's coffers.

After I went into the hospital in January for a biopsy and tracheotomy surgery and learned that I have cancer, I went on a brief medical leave from my job. During that time, the state Employment Development Department mailed a check to me to make up for my lost wages.

I was back at my desk in early February. Aside from taking several days of vacation during the last week of my radiation and chemotherapy treatments, I've been continuing to work ever since my return.

On Monday I got a letter from EDD telling me that they may have overpaid disability benefits to me. If what the EDD is telling me is correct, most of the payment I received in January was paid to me in error!

I'm now drowning in paperwork that the EDD wants me to complete to determine my financial situation for the past six months.

And as I dutifully respond to each of the department's demands, this notion occurs to me: Maybe the real reason we're all paying an additional 1 percent sales tax now is to cover up sloppy bookkeeping –and not on my part.

I mean, how do mistakes like this happen?

So I'm thinking that our state's leaders were a little too eager to try to close the state budget's shortfall with a tax increase. And I'm proposing a few better ways to restore California's financial solvency.

  • Variable tax rates

    We all know Californian love to gamble, right?

    So instead of applying a uniform sales tax rate on all products and services, why not give residents a chance to pay a different percentage?

    Put a spinning wheel like the one that you see on "The Wheel of Fortune" next to every cash register in the state. Every time a purchase is made, the buyer would spin the wheel to determine the sales tax.

    Maybe the wheel would stop at 9.25%. Maybe it would stop at 0%. And maybe it would stop at 1,000%.

  • Sell advertising on state highways

    A while back, a friend told me about a barren stretch of desert highway in Lancaster, Calif., that actually plays music when you drive over it.

    Don't take my word for it, drive the road for yourself on YouTube.

    With thousands of miles of roadway owned by the state, California is sitting on an untapped stream of advertising revenue! Our highways could be singing with jingles like the one you hear on the road in Lancaster.

    Best of all, the ads could be so loud, no drivers would be able to carry on conversations on their cell phones.

  • Upgrade technology in state offices

    I could be wrong, but I'm thinking that the equipment used in state offices may not be as modern as it could be.

    There's a certain EDD office in Van Nuys where agents may be taking turns using an abacus to determine disability benefits.

    It's just a hunch on my part. I'm not pointing any fingers or anything. I'm just a blogger, you know.

    But why can't Arnold cut a deal with Office Depot and at least give every EDD employee a cheap calculator?

    We'd all be better off. I sure know I would be.

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