Dear Mr. Ellison,
Please, please, please, please, please, please, don't leave California. I know you recently bought most of the Hawaiian Island of Lana'i, and maybe you're thinking of eventually retiring there.
For one thing, Hawaii is one of the only states with a higher personal income tax rate than California. Hawaii and Oregon both take 11 percent from top earners, compared to 10.3 percent in California. Think of the difference that .7 percent makes when one is a billionaire.
Now, I know you've heard that Governor Jerry Brown is asking Californians to approve a tax hike in November, one that will move your tax rate to 13.3 percent, the highest in the land. But we need that money. Need it. Don’t. Go.
Your salary and bonuses last year reportedly totaled $15 million. I’m going to guess you paid around $1.5 million in taxes. Of course, you were also awarded $62 million in stock options, which are taxed as regular income in California. At some point you'll cash those in and we’ll get more taxes from you. This may have already happened in order to pay the more than $500 million it reportedly cost to buy Lana’i.
More importantly, Forbes says you are worth $36 billion. Clone yourself twice over and you could fund California’s entire $92 billion state budget and still have enough money left over to buy Lana'i.
You are our Oracle of the Open Hand.
California has a $16 billion deficit to work through over the next ten months. It’s going to be ugly. Financially, it’s as if the San Andreas fault has opened up a gash in the earth and swallowed whole cities. Stockton is bankrupt, San Bernardino says it is, while analysts put Fresno, Compton, and points in between on their radars for possible bankruptcy filings in the future. The latest bad news: The San Diego suburb of Poway agreed to the ingenious idea of borrowing $105 million in a loan that will end up costing taxpayers $1 billion. I know, crazy! But you gotta love the weather.
Of course, Hawaii has nice weather, too…
If you leave, it's going to get worse in California. A lot worse. According to the Wall Street Journal, you were the highest paid CEO from 2000-2010, earning $1.84 billion in compensation. I read that you hauled in $1.4 billion in stock sales during a single three-month period two years ago.
Well, if Californians approve the tax hike, and you decide to stay, another $1.4 billion payday will net the Golden State $186 million in income taxes. That's enough to pay for 2,700 CHP officers right out of the academy — officers who can start writing more tickets to generate more revenue. Or $186 million will pay for more than 5,000 DMV workers, or it will keep vulnerable state parks open. Oh wait, The Sacramento Bee discovered $54 million stashed away in the parks department. So I guess the parks are ok. But think of the DMV!
True, that extra tax money could help feed the poor—California is home to a third of the nation’s welfare recipients—but we also need your money to help pay off bonds funding the $68 billion high speed rail, even though most voters now regret approving the project.
Also, if you stay, we can use your tax money to fund more auditors to go after Californians who are NOT paying their taxes, like CNET co-founder Halsey Minor, whom the state Franchise Tax Board claims owes $10.4 million.
So please don't say "Aloha," to California, Mr. Ellison. We want you to stay. And tell your friends.
, worth well over $200 billion combined. The California Taxpayers Association says the top one half of one percent in the Golden State make 19 percent of all income but pay 32 percent of the taxes. One billionaire leaves, and
from here to Crescent City.
Finally, according to the San Jose Mercury News, the top ten salaries for Silicon Valley executives last year totaled $623 million. If the entire amount was taxed in a single year under the proposed 13.3 percent tax rate, that's $83 million. WOW! That’s even more money than the chunk of change discovered hidden in the parks department! Think of all the new places where it can disappear!
-By CNBC's Jane Wells
Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email firstname.lastname@example.org