Sunday, October 13, 2019

Taxes and other heavy stuff

Tuna here, taking up some slack in the line, although Beans and Juvat are doing well in that regard.

Living in CA is trying for me.  Don't worry, this isn't all about CaliforniaI've got something for every state of the union!  Cali does have some advantages for me.  I absolutely love the weather, enjoy my job, grateful for a great work environment and co-workers,  an easy commute, and I'm happy to have a lot of family near by.  I also see the end to my mortgage, but the taxes and political environment, a word...SUCK.  Yes, that's a very crude and pedestrian word for what could  better be described as challenging, intolerant, oppressive, expensive, wasteful, etc, but SUCK just captures it so well for me.

It wasn't always this way, but in just over a generation, California went from having one of the largest economies in the world, with business friendly policies and common sense politics, to the largest welfare state in the country, if not the world.  There's a super-majority in the state legislature that wields it's power with abandon, passing laws with no input or consent of the people, and with some that even contravene our will.  Many are passed without significant thought to the first and second order ramifications.  After getting millions of signatures on a statewide petition, we put out a ballot measure to repeal a massive additional gas tax (16 cents/gal and counting).  Then the state changes the name of the bill to hide the true intent, claiming that it will end all road repairs (false). and the low/no information voters rejected it.  And gas taxes affect the cost of EVERYTHING.

The tax has gone up a couple times since then, automatically, thanks to the little easter egg in the bill, and no one paying attention during the repeal effort.
The plan Caltrans released last week includes money generated through Senate Bill 1 — a 2017 state law allowing California to raise gas taxes for 10 years in order to fund transportation projects.  Source
High Speed Rail to Nowhere                                                        Source
We already had one of the highest gas prices in the nation, but apparently that wasn't enough to pay for the needed road maintenance.  So they unilaterally passed the law, and we voted down the repeal which addressed all the problems most people had with the bill in the first place.  There was actually a ton of money being brought in via the existing taxes, but the state had been raiding it for years.

For those losing interest, like I said, this isn't all about California.  Any of you Chanters in less-than-conservative states, (aka Socialist)?  Word to the wise, watch your legislators like a hawk.  If any new taxes aren't locked off specifically for the intended cause, chances are that it's a money grab.  It will go into the general fund, making it eligible for whatever the hell they want to spend it on.

The article quoted above then goes on to say that highway projects here in California could lose funding because Gov. Newsome shifted that revenue to mass transit.  Yep, I predicted this back in 2017.  It's not locked off so my illustrious Governor is raiding the gas tax for green efforts, like rail projects.  I actually thought that all that new revenue would be used to shore up the massively underfunded state pension program.  So I was wrong, maybe, but the Governor's term is young and there's plenty of time to screw us more later.

During the 2016 election, there were no less than six new taxes on the CA ballot, most with deceptive titles and explanations, and every one of them passed.

But all that's fake news apparently.  Just read the article here about how tax friendly California is!

If you aren't in the mood to click, I'll summarize:

The 10 least tax-friendly states:
1. Illinois
2. Connecticut
3. New York
4. Wisconsin
5. New Jersey
6. Nebraska
7. Pennsylvania
8. Ohio
9. Iowa
10. Kansas

The article then goes on to say that California didn't even crack the top 10!  It's supposedly considered "friendly" for a few reasons, like a progressive tax structure, but a more holistic view of the tax burden is needed.  The problem is that just like the deceptive ballot titles, this article only looks at a state's income taxes.  The rest of the taxes, bills, expenses (crushing burden of debt- aka Lex's description of his housing cost), etc., is what kills me, and makes CA a place that more people want to leave than move here.

This next piece gives the real look at what it costs you to be a resident. 


This analysis uses more than just income taxes, figuring in property taxes and sales/excise taxes as well.  The darker the coloring on the above map, the higher the burden.  So while California wasn't in the top 10 of unfriendly tax states, it was #11, it also comes out in the 11th spot for overall tax burden.  Sarge's lil' Rhodey hits the top 10 at #6.  Texas- 33rd, Florida- 47th!  How about yours?

I'm sure if the overall cost of living for each state was factored in, California would jump into the top 10, if not top 2.  Fortunately, I was able to purchase my home a long time ago and while it was a jaw-dropping price back then, now it's a steal.  If I didn't have that, I don't know if I'd stay.  Several of my family members have left- one up to Washington, and two others to Nevada.  

One of my close friends just couldn't stand it here anymore.  He did own a house big mortgage, but had some equity, and cashed out for the greener pastures of Tennessee.  He's having a house built on a lake, and will have a very nominal mortgage out there.  He shared the chart below on what helped him make his decision.  He said he got a $40K pay raise upon leaving California. 


25% Less

67% Less

27% Less

28% Less
Health Care

12% Less
Income Tax?
Tax Military Pensions?
Tax Differential??
24% Higher than TN

Gas Price
$100 - $600/Month
Car registration for 2018 Honda Ridgeline
Free for life (DAV)
Affordable Waterfront Property?
Homeless Problem?
Jammed Freeways?
People Defecating in Public?
People Rummaging Through My Recycle Bins at 0500?
Sanctuary State?
To be fair…
Restaurant Diversity?

Anyway, I guess it was mostly about CA, but writers write what they know.  The tax info is probably interesting to non Golden State residents though so you're welcome.  If you're considering a move either now or in retirement, where to?


  1. That tax burden article......veeery interesting, my state ranks in the top five, primarily because of individual income tax. California electric costs don't cover the additional effect of the utilities themselves cutting access to power for customers because..... fire! Well if the power is off at least the meter isn't running eh? Soooo many politicians want to spend and raise taxes to fund that spending, now one party is going full-tilt Left with such proposals as free college for everyone and erase student debt along with free healthcare for illegals.

    1. Freeee stuff is just bribing the voters with B.S. promises. None of them have any real way to pay for it, except "charge the rich." Never mind all the other stuff they have to pay for, and the past B.S. promises. New expenses are never offset by new revenue or adjusted spending.

  2. I feel your pain, Brother. Nebraska property and income taxes are insane. At the end of the day though our non-sustainable spending is what the peeps want NOW. When it breaks, no one will have seen it coming and it'll break bad. Since we are, after all, H. sapiens, there's a chance we can think and do ourselves out of the mess. It'll be up to today's chilluns though, and they probably won't treat the old fools who broke the system as revered elders (think nursing home smokestacks). Hey, in the big picture the planet will be just fine. Earth isn't bothered by a few flecks of organic grunge. Makes you wonder if our "thinking" ability doesn't come with a self limiting easter egg of its own...

    1. NOBODY is looking at the debt or deficits. While state legislatures technically can't run deficits, they are quick to float bonds that the future will have to pay for, quicker to institute new fees (EVERY pickup in California pays commercial registration rates, even if you don't use it for business), and will borrow from one fund and ignore that problem.

  3. Retirement, or working, or a sliding scale between both may have totally different answers.
    Pennsylvania is in top ten for poor taxes, but Pennsylvania doesn't tax retirement income.
    Philly has a wage tax, but doesn't tax retirement income.
    Philly does have a school tax, and a higher sales tax than the surround area.
    Philly has a property tax, but apples for apples, it is less than the surrounding suburbs.
    We have one of the highest tax rates on fuel, but our fuel costs are far less than California.
    It is complicated and I dug for some more data.
    The far distant time in the future when we have to begin withdrawing money isn't all that far anymore, and then that income becomes taxable.
    On the gun subject, a PA concealed carry permit costs $20.00 in Philly, and there is the extra cost of passport photos.
    PA is a preemption state for firearms laws.
    As I said, it's complicated.

    Good post, well thought out and presented. Thank you.

    1. Thanks. If you owned your house out right and lived in a retirement friendly tax state, you'd probably be in a decent place. No place is perfect, but having money to travel can get you closer.

  4. You can add this to the Kalifornia list--

    Today's gas price at Costco in Arlington is $2.01.

    Property tax situation here is not the best.

    1. Good quotes from that article: "We knew he'd sign any and all anti gun bills that land on his desk. We ain't seen nothing yet."

      "The California matrix of gun control laws is among the harshest in the nation and are filled with criminal law traps for people of common intelligence who desire to obey the law." - Hon. Roger T. Benitez

  5. Tennessee isn't free of the homeless madness. It's invading Memphis and Nashville. And Chattanooga has become North Atlanta. But elsewhere in the state is generally cool.

    That's the thing. Any dem-controlled establishment is going to be a poop-hole, literally. Like Austin, TX, where the mayor and city council, against the wishes of even the Austin Weird Peoples' Army, enacted SoCal homeless policies. Or Atlanta, GA, which acts like it is the end-all, be-all of minority-baiting politics and where the morlocks periodically climb up onto the interstates and raid the drivers, so much so that it isn't reported much anymore. Or, well, Broward County, FL and that's enough said about that liberal den of stupidity (one of the first things the new governor did was remove that Sheriff from office, and, of course, some liberal judge just ruled that the governor can't do that, even though state law says he/she/it can.) And, of course, Gainesville, FL, where the police won't roust a homeless person for peeing in public, but will do it to a student (but charges dropped if student's parents have enough pull, or is a student athlete, or if student's embassy calls (cough, ComChina, cough, cough,) and actually pretty much insert any crime.

    Here in FL we voted down Medical Marijuana 4 times before the state finally got tired and voted it in. Now, certain places like Gainesville and Alachua County (which contains Gainesville) won't prosecute any low level marijuana use, so apartments on the lower income spectrum smell like Willie Nelson's bathroom. Why? Because the sheriff says so, and the city admin agree. We (Alachua County) were a sanctuary county, well, until the State Legislature and the Governor (I like DeSantis, good guy, not Rick Scott (hwack-ptooie)) passed and signed a law saying NO FRIGGIN SANCTUARY FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS SO STOP IT!

    As to the gun issues, we have supposedly republicanish and pro-gun people located in SE FL who keep throwing us under the bus, and were the idiots who led the charge to enact a bunch of anti-gun stuff after Parkland. For those not in FL, we had open carry, semi-open carry, Constitutional carry (no fees, carry if you can) all coming up with supposedly good support and then Parkland happened. Pulse nightclub was mostly a 'Meh' but that darned kid in SE FL managed to derail several good years of building legislation. Almost like it was a plan. (well, not a plan, maybe, to have kid go cray-cray, but did you notice the rather professional anti-gun support, from signs to t-shirts to well dressed and well spoken person-on-the-street interviewees? Hmmmm. Almost like all of the support was in place before the shooting... Hmmm...)

    Very good blog.

    Avoid any place controlled by democrats, who have had control for more than 1 legislatural or coucil generation. If the place, a city, county or state, has had solid dems in political control for at least one complete election cycle, then hold onto the handlebars, as that location is going to hell in a handbasket.

    And, yes, we in Alachua County know all about gas taxes. We've been charged for taxes to pay for removal of single-walled underground storage tanks and for road repairs for the last 35 years, and, funny, the County doesn't replace tanks, they make the shop owners pay for it. And the roads only get replaced if the local fish-wrapper has complained about it for over 3 years or it is in one of the rich, college professor areas.


    Did I tell you this was an excellent post?

    Just, if you think of moving to TN or FL or TX or any red-state, stay out of generationally democrat-controlled areas.

    Good presentation, too. Can I get a powerpoint? (ducks...)

    (I like ducks, geese too.)

    1. Thanks Beans. When the economy is doing so well, I wonder why the homeless population in these cities is so high. Probably lenient or catch and release drug laws, coupled with weak mental health funding, and acceptance of the problem by cities.

    2. Oh, and I think they should pass a law prohibiting pet ownership by the homeless. Sounds harsh, but without a home, they could be considered unable to properly care for them. That way, they wouldn't have the pet excuse not to move into shelters and get help.

    3. Problem with those pets is they are one of the things keeping the homeless from going full crazy. They serve as, well, emotional support.

      Best bet would be to move all the homeless to some abandoned but re-furbished military base in the middle of no-where and let the people prove that they can live in the real world. In other words, well, re-institute mental institutions. Pet-full or pet-free, gotta get the homeless out of the cities.

  6. From Volusia County FL, thanks for the post. Left Santa Cruz County CA five years ago and couldn't be happier with day to day livin'. Annualized livin' is harder, 'cuz we miss the kids and grand kids. Oldest son is supposed to move out here whilst oldest grand son becomes a gator. I'm not so sure, maybe two years and an A.A. degree would be an easier entree. Besides, the Gator Store will sell stuff to anyone.

  7. Youse is welcome. I shared that first tax article among some co-workers, (many of us are eyeing retirement) and received the more holistic view in response. My friend in TN was also a co-worker until he pulled the rip cord. My wife LOVED living in Tampa, but I am a native San Diegan and can stand humidity. Weather is a huge factor for me so who knows what I'll do in the future. Probably hold my nose, or just travel a lot.

    1. Can't stand the humidity, that is.

    2. It is a tad wet down here.

      But... P-Cola has planes... lots of planes... And the Cape has big shiny rockets...

      Actually, Brevard County, as long as you live on the barrier islands or at least next to the Indian or Banana River, isn't humidity central due to the sea breezes. My mom and brother's place can have the windows open about a third of the year. Plus rockets... And Brevard is very veteran friendly, the Sheriff and past sheriffs are very gun friendly, and there are good social programs for your son.

      But, yeah, youse is a California boyz, so, well, hang in there. The Diego sounds like it hasn't fallen to terminal stupidity, yet.

    3. That is one consideration- the programs. Who knows. Never say never.

    4. Jeanie and I have watched all sorts of rockets and stuff off the deck either at night or during cocktail hour. Thrilling use of our tax dollars. And of course, you HAVE to drive the seventy or so miles South to actually HEAR one of those things go off.
      As someone who has moved from the high desert (George AFB - Victorville/Apple Valley) where the humidity was in negative numbers to here (Ormond Beach, North of Daytona)on the beach, I can say the humidity didn't hit me as bad as those who get to live inland. Don't much notice it. Sorta like a 90 minute ACM flight debrief- wet wise. There's A/C every where. Just don't buy a black car without an indoor parking space.

  8. We got out of Kommiefornia almost two years ago, and so far, so good. We have a much nicer house on a lot over twice the size we had in Long Beach, in a far better neighborhood. The streets are clean, and the rare bit of graffiti gets removed promptly, usually within 48 hours. Very few panhandlers, and haven't run into any of The Entitled here, although I'm sure they're here. The taxes are less, fuel costs are much less, utility costs are lower, and groceries cost less.

    And the people are wonderful.

    We were very fortunate in being able to make our CALEXIT, as our daughter-in-law is from here, and has well established family ties with the entire community here. Her parents have been here all their adult lives, and literally "know everybody".

    Some things cost more to get done (no "Three Amigos" from the Home Depot here...), but you generally get very good quality work, and they'll come back and make it right if you're not happy.

    The pace of living is much more to my liking, traffic isn't nearly as congested, and best of all, we have TREES!

    1. Beans. A bit of snow is magical and fun. A winter's worth of snow, even in Philly, not so much fun.
      Some time in the nineties, we had back to back snow and ice storms, (might have been back to back to back and so on)
      The three season room had a flat roof and it began leaking and creaking. I had to SHOVEL SNOW OFF OF OUR ROOF!
      On the other hand, our snow was light in 2019 that the snowthrower got zero use.
      Although, snow is better now that we are both retired.

    2. Yep, it snows here, and gets (BRRRR!) cold at times.

      I understand the attraction of year-round "Nice Weather", but the cost got to be too high.

    3. I dealt with snow and ice here in Alachua County, FL in North Central Florida (it's a thing) during the great freeze before Christmas in 1989. Went from 80 to 18 in five hours. While raining for the most part. All the bridges and overpasses were iced over, as was the airport. Then it snowed. I even made a snowman, about 5" tall, as the snow actually finally stuck and didn't melt. You could hear cars sliding on the interstate. And they had to get heavy trucks to go rescue people off the interstate as cars couldn't move for a day or so.

      Driving down south to go to mom's for Christmas required dodging black ice, or at least start on the winward side of the black ice so we'd end up still on the road.

      Y'all can keep your cold frozen stuff.

      As to living near the coast, I miss it, but I don't miss living in the allergy zone (just north of the Orlando mega-are to the bottom end of the state is warm enough all year that the plants, especially the exotic plants, put out pollen year long. Moving north above that line was the best thing I could have done.

      Should have moved to Tennessee when we had the chance, and the money. East Tennessee specifically. Foothills of the Smokeys. Like near Townsend. But those days are past, sigh...

    4. Beans. My wife and I have talked about leaving Philly, but both our families our here and her parents are elderly.
      Our checklist includes,
      Seeing the changes of season, but moving the needle more to the middle of the range.
      No tornadoes.
      Gun friendly.
      Retirement money friendly.
      Access to good medical care, 'cause getting up there in years.

      In reality though, we aren't going to move, and we are just talking. But it is a fun exercise.

    5. We have tornadoes, just they're usually parts of very much larger storms...

      The Villages south of Ocala is the happening spot. They even got Trump to come down to them. Very conservative, in the middle of the state so mostly protected from hurricanes and tropical storms, while being close enough that you can reach a beach in an hour or so.

      But, yeah. Like you, I am stuck for various reasons where I am. Love to be near my family, but the air down there literally kills me due to allergies.

      Oh well. Such is life. Now if I win the lottery big enough? Whooo!!!

  9. Tuna, as a lifelong Tennessean (excepting 4 years on aircraft carriers), I must disagree.
    Tennessee is a HORRIBLE place to live. It seems affordable & pleasant, with friendly residents who leave one to one's own devices, low taxes, cheap property, mostly-lenient firearms policies, beautiful scenery---but it's all a cruel lie! Believe me, nobody (especially a liberal) wants to move here! It's hell on Earth!
    That's my story, & I'm sticking to it.
    --Tennessee Budd

    1. Nice one. I'm sure you can handle another conservative or two, despite how horrible it is there. My friend has actually influenced two others who are closer to retirement. They are seriously looking your way.

  10. As one who lives and works in California, it is both maddening and saddening to know Sacramento politicians are working to the max each an every day to squeeze those of us in the middle. In my opinion there are three groups in Califoria: 1) Those in power who profit from their position of influence, 2) Those who are quite happy being dependent on the government and/or are too poor to leave, and 3) Those planning an escape. As for me, I'm in the latter.

    1. I guarantee you'll be happier out of that asylum!

    2. It's not just that they profit from their position, but they believe that their actions are turning CA into some sort of utopia. But that doesn't exist, and they're actually just making it worse with every decision.

  11. My long-delayed CALEXIT is now underway. Slowly, but underway. Traded in my 960-square-foot Sunnyvale mansion for a modest hovel in rural Sevier County, TN - over three times as much living space, plus a basement, plus a potential workshop building, all on 10 acres. And a modest pile of working capital left over from the "downsizing".
    Should be settled in by the end of the year. There's much to be done on the house and workshop, and the move itself is complicated, but we'll get there. Much stress and expense now, but we should have a much more pleasant lifestyle, and much lower living expenses, in future years.
    (No, it's not a lakefront property. But there's a good-sized seasonal pond in the back yard, which maybe we can turn into an all-year pond with bluegills in it. And it's about a 5-minute drive to the nearest public boat-launching ramp.)

    1. Well done, sir!

      Geez....Sunnyvale. How long were you in the house you sold? Hopefully you've had it a while.

    2. I bought the Sunnyvale house in, lessee, 1988. Sold a bit after the peak, so I didn't get quite the crazy amount I could have gotten had I been ready half a year earlier, but it was still a tidy sum.
      And, once we get everybody moved, we'll be selling my father's house. In Palo Alto. Which he bought in... 1959? With the cost basis having been reset as of October of 2017, he may end up showing a paper loss on the sale, while actually bringing in enough cash to top up his retirement fund rather nicely. (This assumes that the market for Eichlers doesn't collapse in the next few months.)

  12. left CA for Iceland in the 1970s and really wanted to return to the state, but got assigned to homestead FL. loved it. and as all things military it comes to an end with an assignment to OK. and then another OK-okinawa- and lets just say other points further east. never got back to CA. In the end, I had picked up some property in CO, and am considering a return to FL or TX as soon as I find someone to buy the steading. two taxes I detest are income and sales. I do wish CA expatriates would leave CA policies and politics in CA. CO is just as screwed as CA now. I really enjoy retirement. I just wish I could afford it.


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