California’s on a tax binge, despite having one of the nation’s highest tax burdens

By Dan Walters, CALmatters | Last year, California voters approved a big boost in cigarette taxes, from 87 cents a pack to $2.87, and extended for 12 additional years the nation’s highest income-tax rates on the highest-income residents.

Income taxes are 70 percent of California's general-fund revenue. Image via FlickrThis year, the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown enacted a more than $5-billion-a-year increase in gas taxes and other vehicular levies to finance transportation improvements and imposed a new tax on real estate transactions to finance affordable housing.

Those increases, plus a slew of new local government levies and hikes in personal income and taxable retail sales, will raise total tax collections to just under $300 billion a year, or $50 billion more than they were just two years ago. The breakdown: Nearly $200 billion will go to the state and more than $100 billion to schools and local governments.

You won’t find those numbers in any central data repository. Rather, they are calculated from dozens of different sources, ranging from the state budget to tax authorities and reports from agencies that are empowered to impose specialized levies, such as payroll taxes on employers for unemployment insurance, taxes on workers for disability insurance or utility taxes to support the Public Utilities Commission.

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