Last week, friends asked my wife and me to join them in Brookings and do some shopping. As the perpetual cheerleader for Crescent City, I asked them what's up there in Brookings that we don't have in Crescent City.
"Roger, I go up there every week, fill up my gas tank at Fred Meyer and do a little shopping. There's no sales tax!"
I suspect there are many in our community who regularly travel to Oregon for the very same reason. Anybody with a vehicle knows one can drive the 20-plus miles to save up to 60 cents a gallon. It bothers me California is so grossly uncompetitive with the zero-sales tax state of Oregon. Gasoline or diesel fuel sold in Del Norte and Humboldt counties is the highest-priced petroleum in the lower 48.
I must admit I do occasionally fill up my tank in Oregon, but I am
reasonably loyal to Joe's Chevron on Highway 101 North. Joe keeps my
truck running perfectly. Plus, he's a great guy and I take my business
to him, accordingly.
Who isn't looking to save money? These are hard times in America,
California, and Crescent City. Lots of folks are out of work. I continue
to be disappointed by Governor Jerry Brown, the Assembly, and the
Senate, who believe the only way to fix California's problems is to levy
more taxes. As I write this commentary, the governor is promoting yet
another "temporary" sales tax increase of andfrac12; cent which would raise the
tax in Del Norte County to 7.75 percent.
To quantify the increased rate, for every $1,000 in purchases one
makes in Del Norte County, one will pay an additional $5, added to the
$72.50 in California state sales tax due. Is that enough of an incentive
to make you want to buy tires in Oregon?
In some of California's other 57 counties, the rate may approach 10
percent. In addition, the governor wants to surcharge those who earn at
least $250,000 on state income tax. More taxes are not the answer.
Cutting entitlements for illegal immigrants and their native-born
children, and removing worthless, duplicative agencies and commissions
are some of the answers that will turn California in another direction.
I am going to take a polar opposite position on this issue. The
Golden State needs to start behaving competitively and demonstrate
Is it now time for border county Del Norte to demand Sacramento
designate Del Norte County a sales tax-free county? Due to our geography
and state of contiguousness with Curry County, I believe the time has
come to declare our county a state tax-free haven, a mecca for small
The concept of a tax-free enterprise zone exemption is not a new one.
In 1967, Senator Robert Kennedy introduced this idea to stimulate
growth in America's inner cities with the assumption that employers
would respond positively to tax incentives and reduced government
regulation. Why couldn't this concept work for rural Del Norte County,
which currently endures an unemployment rate of 13.2 percent (the real
rate is near double that). If this enterprise zone can work in
economically devastated areas of our large cities, why couldn't it work
in hard-pressed, cash-strapped Del Norte County?
I harbor a healthy dose of skepticism that all the taxes collected by
Sacramento actually end up helping the people. Other than perpetuating
the over-regulated and onerous state government system whose family of
agencies, boards, and commissions total near 600, I can tell you those
taxes you involuntarily render to Sacramento actually accomplish little
in solving California's fiscal problems, except to support the
self-serving interests of the bloated state bureaucracy.
Environmentally, is there a difference between the gallon of gasoline
Brookings sells and the gallon of gas Crescent City sells? And what
about the special additives (which you pay for at the pump) California
mandates oil refiners place in the California-sold gasoline for the
purpose of keeping our air clean? Are those additives in the California
fuel just phony science? Again, I would be challenged to tell you the
additive-less gas in Oregon fouls the air in Brookings, Gold Beach,
Medford, Ashland and Grants Pass or anywhere in the Beaver State.
I favor removing much of these wasteful taxes (and subsequent fraud)
from the federal and state system, and allow Del Norte County and
Crescent City to implement its own tax collection system whose sole
purpose it is to derive the necessary revenues and keep our community
vibrant and growing. Just as all politics is local, all taxation should
likewise be local. What a novel, refreshing idea it is which would
permit the Crescent City Council or the Del Norte County Board of
Supervisors to implement their own tax system.
It's obvious our remote, sparsely populated county is going to
realize less and less assistance from Sacramento. That writing is on the
wall. Crescent City and Del Norte County need to look out for
Roger Gitlin is Crescent City resident.