California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is proposing a new insurance surcharge to plug a budget gap that conservative critics are calling a tax. And objectively speaking, it really is a tax. But the L.A. Times was careful to avoid attributing the T-word to the idea.
Here's the teaser from the Times Web site's front page:
Plan calls for 1.25% assessment on all residential and commercial property policies to fund firefighting. Foes call it a tax.
Here's the header, subhead, and lede from the January 9 article:
Gov. urges insurance assessment to fund firefighting: Plan calls for 1.25% levy on all residential and commercial property policies. Foes say it is a tax.
SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will propose hiking the cost of insurance for millions of California homes and businesses in the budget he unveils Thursday, with the money to be used for firefighting efforts.
LAT Staffers Marc Lifsher and Evan Halpe later explained in their article that the controversy over the tax is far from an issue about semantics, it goes to Schwarzenegger's chances of passing the measure through the state legislature:
A fee can pass the Legislature on a simple majority. A tax requires a two-thirds vote, which would have to include Republican support -- something GOP lawmakers have traditionally withheld on new taxes.
To split the difference between calling it a tax or a fee, Lifsher and Halpe settled for "levy":
The levy is the latest to be championed by the governor. Last fall, Schwarzenegger signed a bill that raised California drivers' registration payments by as much as $11 to pay for research on alternative fuels. And his healthcare plan relies on new taxes on tobacco users, hospitals and employers.