Breaking Bad: California vs. the Other States

by Richard Rider – Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters

Version 3.47 Revised: 11 August, 2021

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Here’s a depressing but documented comparison of California taxes and economic climate with the rest of the states. The news is not good (at least once a month, I update crucial data on this fact sheet):

Prior to Prop 30 passing in Nov. 2012, CA already had the 3rd worst state income tax rate in the nation. Our 9.3% tax bracket started at under $50,000 for people filing as individuals. 10.3% started at $1 million. Now our “millionaires’ tax” rate is 13.3% – including capital gains (CA total CG rate now the 2nd highest in the world!). 10+% taxes now start at $250K. CA now has by far the nation’s highest state income tax rate.

We are 21% higher than 2nd place Hawaii, and a heck of a lot higher than all the rest – including 8 states with zero state income tax – NH taxes only dividends and interest income (not capital gains).

CA is so bad, we also have the nation's 2nd highest state income tax bracket. AND the 3rd. AND the 5th. AND the 8th! and

CA has the highest state sales tax rate in the nation -- 7.25% (does not include local sales taxes). 9th highest state with the average local sales tax included (8.68% on 1 January 2021 – up from 8.25% in 2017).

CA corporate income tax rate (8.84%) is the highest west of Iowa (except for Alaska), or south of NJ (our economic competitors). Overall CA has the 7th highest corporate tax rate in nation. And it's 8.84% from the first dollar of profit made.

Indeed, CA has a nasty $800 minimum state corporate income tax, even if no profit is earned, and even for many nonprofits. Most states have no such minimum tax.

CA has the nation’s highest “gas pump” tax at 81.45 cents/gallon (April 2021). Add in the unique 10-12 cent CA “cap and trade” tax per gallon, and CA total taxes are over 14 cents higher than 2nd place PA. National average is 52.18 cents. Yet according to a December, 2020 report by U.S. News and World Report, CA has the worst roads of any state. (CA has the nation's highest total diesel tax)


California in 2020 ranked 14th highest in per capita property taxes (including commercial) – the only major tax rate where we are not in the worst ten states. But the 2018 median CA homeowner tax bill is the 8th highest state in the nation. Indeed, the median CA homeowner property tax bill (not the tax rate, but the BILL) is 66%% higher than the average for the other 49 states. and

The average "impact" fees in CA for building the median single-family residence ($548,000 - May, 2019) varied from 6% ($32,880) to 18% ($98,640) per home, about double the fees charged by the next most expensive state and more than TRIPLE the norm among jurisdictions that levy such fees (many governments east of the Sierras charge little or no fees). The fee is part of the purchase price, so buyers pay an annual property tax on the fee!

CA has now instituted the highest “cap and trade” tax in the nation – indeed, the ONLY such U.S. tax. Even proponents concede that it will have virtually zero impact on global warming. The tax especially increases the cost of electricity, gasoline, diesel and manufacturing.

Based just on GDP, CA, by far the most populous state, ranks as the 5th largest economy in the world. But adjusted for population and cost of living, CA prosperity ranks lower than all but 13 U.S. states.

If instead of per capita GDP, we consider the states’ median household income adjusted for the COL, CA ranks a dismal 48th. Only OR and HI are worse.

According to the Tax Foundation, California’s 2020 “business tax climate” ranks 2nd worst in the nation – behind anchor-clanker New Jersey.

The American Tort Reform Foundation in 2021 ranks CA the “worst state judicial hellhole” in U.S.

CA driving tickets are incredibly high. Red-light camera ticket $500. Next highest state is $250. Most are around $100.

CA has the 2nd highest/worst state workers’ compensation rates in 2018 – 169% of the median state rate. Workers’ comp is usually a more important factor than a state's corporate income tax. Yet we pay low benefits -- much goes to lawyers.

CA unemployment rate (June, 2021) is 7.7%. Only three states are worse, and not by much. The national unemployment rate is 6.1%. The CA unemployment rate is 36.2% higher than the average of the other 49 states. and

CA public school teachers are the 3rd highest paid in the nation – avg $85,892. National avg $65,090. CA teachers earn 38% more than average in other 49 states. CA student tests are score significantly better than only 2 states. and

CA annual per state prisoner cost ($112,000) is easily the highest in the nation – over triple the average cost of the 18 states with the least-costly rates. and

California gives away community college education at fire sale prices. Our California CC tuition and fees are the lowest in the nation. How low? Nationwide, the average community college tuition and fees are 2.6 times more than our CA community colleges.

This ridiculously low tuition devalues education to students – often resulting in a 25+% drop rate for class completion. In addition, because of grants and tax credits, up to 2/3 of California CC students pay no net tuition at all! One can opt out by filling out a simple “can’t pay” form.

Complaints about increased UC student fees ignore a key point -- all poor and most middle-class CA students don't pay the UC “fees” (our state’s euphemism for tuition). There are no fees for most California families with under $80K income. 55% of all undergraduate CA UC students pay zero tuition, and another 14% pay only partial tuition. Moreover, CA's new “Middle Class Scholarship” program provides partial tuition aid for CA public college students of families with income from $80K to $150K. and and

California’s real (“supplemental”) 2019 poverty rate (the new census bureau standard adjusted for the COL) is still easily the worst in the nation at 17.2%. We are 45% higher than the average for the other 49 states. Table A-5 on page 28

California has the 3rd highest per capita homeless population in the nation. Only NY and HI are worse. 9 of the 10 worst states are controlled by Democrats.

California has 12% of the nation’s population, but amazingly has over 43% of the entire country’s TANF (“Temporary” Assistance for Needy Families) and SSP welfare recipients. That's 5.6 TIMES the percentage of TANF and SSP welfare recipients found in the other 49 states! page 20

California ranks 50th worst for people's debt-to-income ratio, and 49th worst for percentage of home ownership. and

Average CA firefighter is paid 77.4% more than paid firefighters in other 49 states. CA cops paid 66.3% more. CA 2017 median household income (including gov’t workers) is only 19.0% above national average. and

In CA there are over 90,000 retired public employees receiving $100,000+ pensions. That number is skyrocketing – up 90+% since 2013.

CA COL is 37.5% higher than the national average (an average that includes CA) in March, 2021. The California COL is 49% higher than the Texas COL.

The median CA home costs 2.8 times more than the other 49 states’ average median home. as of June, 2021

CA has 2nd highest annual car owning cost – $4,112. $370 higher than the other 49 states' average.

CA residential electricity costs an average of 69.8% more per kWh than the national average. CA commercial rates are 70.2% higher. For industrial use, CA electricity is an astonishing 96.2% higher than the 50 state average – an average which includes CA! (April, 2021).

NOTE: My local utility -- SDG&E/Sempra -- is considerably higher than the CA average.

The average CA home water bill is third highest in the nation. Only WV and CT are higher.

The top CEO’s surveyed rank CA “the worst state in which to do business” for the 17th straight year.

In California, the rule of law is rapidly eroding. Shoplifting and looting are no longer deemed illegal in the Golden State, as long as you don't steal more than $950 at a time. Breaking into cars and taking whatever you want is not punishable by the courts. And people who rent housing no longer have to PAY the rent -- devastating rental owners large and small. There is no other state in the nation with such total disdain for property rights and the rule of law.

In 2018, beautiful California was ranked as the 6th worst state to retire in by Kiplinger. The eight worst states all run by Democrats. CA has easily the lowest percentage of people over age 65.

The 2019 median Texas household income ($64,034) is 20.4% less than CA ($80,440). But adjusted for COL, the TX median household income is 18.9% more than CA. It should be noted that such comparisons don’t include the state income taxes paid – too complicated. and

Consider California’s “net domestic migration” (migration between states). From 1992 through 2020, California lost a NET 4.6 million people to other states. More people leave each year -- in FY 2019, we lost 203,000 net to other states – over 30% higher than the year before. Again, note that these are NET losses. Sadly, our policies are splitting up more and more California families. and

It’s likely that it’s not the welfare kings and queens departing. They are primarily the young, the educated, the productive, the entrepreneurial, the ambitious, the wealthy (such as Tiger Woods) – and retirees seeking to make their nest-eggs provide more bang for the buck. BTW, retirees are the least expensive group for a state – they don’t go to jail, they don’t commute during rush hour and – most important – they don’t breed! Students are by far the biggest single CA state budget cost.

NOTE: To see more such fact-based disclosures, go to my blog at, or my more active Facebook “page” (“friend” me). The very latest fact sheet Word file (this wonky handout) is available free upon request.

Posted 8th November 2012 by Richard Rider

Labels: CA Taxes California California compared to other states taxes

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