Commentary: Amazon, big oil want to avoid California's taxes

The Sacramento BeeFebruary 22, 2010 

The oil industry is so last century, with its pumps, spills and exhaust. couldn't be more 21st century, with its cool technology that instantly delivers electronic books on sleek devices, at a discount.

Images aside, there is not a dime's worth of difference between the two when it comes to taxation. They aggressively fend off any effort to impose taxes on them, and they win.

Republican lawmakers repeatedly say California doesn't have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. The state often does spend stupidly. But the tax system is a mess, too, as became apparent last week.

Lawmakers grappling with the perennial budget deficit contemplated two tax proposals, one aimed at the oil industry and another directed at Internet companies.

First, the gasoline tax idea.

Democrats want to let counties place before voters local gasoline tax hikes. Voters would approve the measures by simple majorities and earmark the money for alternatives to internal combustion engines, including public transit and bike paths. The money also could be used for transit operations, wages, pensions, consultants, whatever.

The idea seems direct enough. Voters would have final say. But nothing related to taxation is simple, as lobbyists from industry and anti-tax groups made clear at a Senate hearing last week.

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