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It never ceases to amaze me that when a state, county or municipality finds persistent difficulty in managing its budget, it turns to the fees and tax system to extract what it needs from the public, often in seemingly innocuous ways that  they presume will be almost imperceptible to those footing the bill.

I speak of the state of California’s proposed initiative to increase its automotive licensing fee by more than 150 percent — from 0.65 percent to 1.65 percent — in order to obtain additional funds for road repairs and highway projects.

In the front-page article from Tuesday (“Vehicle registration fees would increase if initiative passes”), I noted, suspiciously, that no attempt was made to print what the average amount of increase would be to each registered owner of a vehicle in California.

Even so, this feeble attempt to dig deeper into our pockets does nothing more than draw attention to the fact that, because the state of California can’t seem to manage and spend its funds judiciously.

With fiscal responsibility, it’s an easy segue to tap into the pockets of the public to fund their less-than-ineffective management of the taxes and fees we already pay.

That includes previous increases for planning, building, licensing and anything else that offers an opportunity to grab funds.

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Airlines have done it with baggage fees, banks have done it with (among other numerous policies) fees to open or close your account, not save regularly, or taking funds out too regularly, and on and on. Once this snowball starts rolling down the hill, they are all loath to give them up until they become ubiquitous in the eyes of the public, as if they were always there.

I read regularly that the public pension systems — a substantial number of which are severely underfunded — are also sacred cows, in that, once obtained, unions are similarly loath to give up these overly generous benefits.

If this automotive tax initiative makes it to the ballot, I urge you to slam this door shut. Send a message urging the financial gluttony be put on a major, sustainable diet.

Michael J. Clark / Napa

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