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EDITORIAL: City less taxing than state

Good government planning versus poor planning is markedly evident in the fact that Laguna Beach consumers and local businesses will see a half-cent local sales tax go away June 1 "” but not before the state raises its sales tax by 1 cent starting April 1.

The half-cent extra tax "” to offset expenses from the disastrous Bluebird Canyon landslide in 2005 "” is ending three years earlier than it was originally intended to. The 1-cent sales tax hike "” to keep the state government afloat "” will probably never end.

While the state Legislature is notoriously unable to balance its books or put a budget together on time, resulting in annual hair-tearing sessions in Sacramento and in state offices and schools, Laguna Beach has shown what compromise and a make-it-work attitude can do.

The City Council stood together in 2005 to ask citizens to approve the tax increase, which required a two-thirds vote. Despite differences of political affiliation or persuasion, they saw the need for a cash cushion to respond to the landslide "” and for a future reserve in case of another disaster, be it a firestorm or another slide, or some other unforeseen event.

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Both of these objectives have been accomplished, under the steady hand of city officials who spent prudently and kept costs under control, and thanks to the lobbying efforts of the council, several of whom "” on both sides of the aisle "” went to Washington, D.C., to petition Sen. Dianne Feinstein and get her backing for the release of FEMA funds to pay for most of the restoration costs.

The efficacy of city officials "” those elected and those on staff "” can also be seen in the fact that the reserve for future disasters was achieved in just three years, half the time projected. And instead of keeping the tax in place as a “windfall" "” as tempting as that would be during such tough economic times "” city officials opted to end it early. That’s the good governance that the citizens of Laguna Beach have come to expect.

Not so out of Sacramento.

The latest news is that the budget deficit is expected to swell further in girth as property taxes continue to take a hit due to falling home values, so further cuts in programs and hikes in taxes and fees could be in the offing.

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