Funny Business with Jane Wells

Something Good About California And Cursing TV Anchors

Map of California

There is much to criticize California for, as Joe Kernen did this morning (See the clip on the right in my "video gallery"--Joe, so pathetic! Wait, I sound so defensive...).

Yes, tract homes here are a million dollars, it takes 90 minutes to drive across the street, Joe even claims there are no trees (um, what are those big green things?). When I began to fight back, Joe, sitting in New Jersey, mentioned something about school lunch programs. Yes! "New Jersey, Come for the Turnpike, Stay for the School Lunch!"

Not that California isn't riddled with problems--but one thing most outsiders would envy is the rules voters here imposed on property taxes. The legendary Prop 13 says that when you buy a home, its property taxes will be about one percent of the purchase price. The tax can only increase two percent a year, until the home is sold, at which point the process starts over at one percent of the new purchase price.

But California also has Prop 8, which says that when a home's market value falls below its Prop 13 value, then property taxes HAVE to be lowered to an amount commiserate with the home's current market value. Once home prices improve, the taxes rise until the home returns to its Prop 13 inflation adjusted value.

Pretty much every home sold in this state in the last few years is due for a tax reduction. In Riverside County alone, the assessor plans to automatically appraise 250,000 homes, half the homes in the county! That's because Riverside is in California's Inland Empire, where the tax rolls nearly doubled from 2003 to 2007 from $125 billion to $240 billion, and where the bubble has burst in a big way.

Here's who WON'T get a tax reduction: people who've owned their homes for a long time who, even though their homes have lost value in the last few years, still have market values above their Prop 13 values. For example, say you bought a home in 2000 for $500,000. By 2005 it may have been worth $1 million, but now it's down to $700,000. You will not get a reduction in your tax bill because, based on the Prop 13 cap on growth of only two percent a year, your Prop 13 value is $574,000.

Today as Governor Schwarzenegger updates California's continuing budget crisis (this state has more red ink than GM or Bear Stearns), he will propose some ideas to close a projected $15 billion budget deficit. One idea is to increase a fee on homeowners insurance. According to the Sacramento Bee, "Property owners would be assessed a fee based on the location of their property." Those homes at higher risk of natural disasters would face higher fees. What home is California is NOT at risk of natural disaster?

Yesterday I posted the Bill O'Reilly F-bomb burst from years ago. I wonder how long someone has been sitting on that gem, taped back long before YouTube was a twinkle in the internet's eye. In fact, long before the internet went mainstream. Now comes more tape from just this week from veteran WNBC anchor Sue Simmons. YouTube her and you'll find it, complete with another F-bomb. Simmons apologized on air.

We are all human, but one of the first things you learn in this business is you never say a bad word around a microphone, no matter how convinced you are that you are not on the air or on tape. If you don't say anything bad around a mike, you'll never get burned. Come to think of it, that's not a bad philosophy for life.

Meantime, Stephen Colbert parodied the O'Reilly video by airing an old "mistake" he made when he was an "anchor" 20 years ago in Patterson Springs, North Carolina. The O'Reilly piece is there as well, so a caution about offending words.

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