Arnold, the Car Tax, and Pigs in the Road
By Dan Gougherty
November 17, 2003 was a historic day for Californians. With
the successful recall of Gray Davis, bodybuilder-turned-action-hero-movie-star-turned-politician
Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in as the Governor of the
fifth largest economy in the world.
While television crews from around the world and other Hollywood
hangers-on converged in Sacramento to partake in the self-described
"low-key ceremony" behind fencing (no doubt to keep the riffraff
of the proletariat at bay) and tight security, I received
an assignment to cover a governmental meeting in the small
Southeastern Sacramento County community of Herald.
On my way back from the meeting, I was desperately thinking
how I might add my two-cents to the day's events. Then it
hit me, or rather, it almost hit my car. Traveling west on
Highway 104, I made a very hard swerve to the shoulder to
avoid a large flailing object in my lane.
Stunned, I pulled over to see what it was. My first thought
was that someone had been hit. Fortunately, it was not a person,
but rather a very large pig. It was obvious the poor creature
had just been hit.
Concerned that other less skilled drivers might not be as
adroit as me, I called 911 on my cell phone to report the
hazard. After being told for more than five minutes that my
call was important and would be answered in the order it was
received, I gave up. I react the same way when trying to call
my bank or the DMV.
Good thing that the creature fighting for its life in the
middle of the road was a pig and not a person otherwise the
delay in reporting this to emergency medical service would
have been catastrophic. Their bacon would have been fried.
In this context, it should be noted earlier in the day Gov.
Schwarzenegger's first official act was to sign an executive
order repealing the car registration fee that had been automatically
hiked earlier this year.
The fee was increased by a trigger mechanism signed into
law three years ago when registration fees were lowered. The
trigger was designed to kick in should the state find itself
in a financial crisis. Just about everyone conveniently chose
to ignore this fact as self-serving right-wing politicians
worked people into a lather with this "issue."
The good news for car-crazed Californians is that the rollback
means that all those high-priced SUV's and other gas-guzzling
luxury car owners will be off the hook for $4 billion. The
bad news is that the state's deficit instantly grew by the
same amount and here's the kicker - most of the money from
car registration fees funds local public safety agencies like
the police, fire and medical emergency service and of course,
So next time you call 911 for an emergency, don't get mad
when the on-hold message has been changed to, "Hasta la Vista,
Visit Dan Gougherty's blog Left
Turn on Bird Street.