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He’s right that as the America’s vanguard of the Pacific rim economy the recession shouldn’t be hurting us this bad, but the gutting of public infrastructure is taking its toll on the economy.

From today’s column:

The seeds of California’s current crisis were planted more than 30 years ago, when voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 13, a ballot measure that placed the state’s budget in a straitjacket. Property tax rates were capped, and homeowners were shielded from increases in their tax assessments even as the value of their homes rose.

The result was a tax system that is both inequitable and unstable. It’s inequitable because older homeowners often pay far less property tax than their younger neighbors. It’s unstable because limits on property taxation have forced California to rely more heavily than other states on income taxes, which fall steeply during recessions.

Even more important, however, Proposition 13 made it extremely hard to raise taxes, even in emergencies: no state tax rate may be increased without a two-thirds majority in both houses of the State Legislature. And this provision has interacted disastrously with state political trends.

I wish he’d expanded a bit before drawing parallels with national politics, but it’s a point that has to be made.  It’s not that we’re spending too much.  As the fourth largest economy in the world, we’re not spending enough to support it.  Sometimes the tough choices have to be made and the voters of the last generation have pretty much taken the choice away.

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I found this law review article (entitled The Effect of Historic Parcels on Agriculture – Harvesting Houses, by Ed Johnson) a few months back.  I’ve intended to write up a whole schpiel about it, but I just haven’t gotten to it.  I want to get it out into the discussion as it’s particularly timely, but I do hope to present a summary and analysis at a later time.  It deals with an aspect of the topic of patent parcels that I believe many locals haven’t considered, namely its usage to force residential development of precious farmland and open space by using the historical legal status of the parcels to bypass state and local zoning and regulations.

Does this mean people shouldn’t be allowed to develop their parcels?  That’s not the point.  It’s a very complex issue and I think there are a number of ways to approach it.  I’m just saying that there are huge issues at stake well beyond the local subdivisions and the bubble of Humboldt County politics.

If you’re on dial-up, you should know that the link is to a pdf document.

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