Incentives (past position, archived)

When we give tax breaks to polluters, we cannot say we are serious about cleaning up the environment. When we allow massive harm to people and the environment in the name of industrial production, we must recognize that harm as a cost we all bear.

Large corporations are held accountable by their shareholders to provide an economic return on the shareholder's investment. This motivates the corporations to focus on revenue growth at the expense of just about everything else. Even breaking the law can be justified when the fine for being caught is less than the profit to be made. Expecting businesses to voluntarily incur any significant costs on behalf of the communities they are in or the environment they exploit is completely unrealistic. There are, however, two ways to motivate the business community to act responsibly towards the people and the Earth. One is true cost pricing and the other is appropriate taxation.
Under our current accounting and pricing system, many commonly used products carry hidden environmental and social costs such as air and water pollution, deforestation, and toxic waste. These costs are created during the production, use, or disposal of the products. While the producer internalizes revenue and profits from these products, the costs are externalized to society and the natural environment. This externalizing of costs may make the consumer price low, but we all pay for it eventually through adverse health effects and reduced quality of life. In this way, externalized costs equate to a subsidy. Artificially low prices on subsidized products encourage their over-consumption and, therefore, the under-consumption of environmentally sound products.
When taxes are levied against labor, using labor in production is more expensive and is therefore a disincentive for employment. This also diminishes the economic value of labor by decreasing the worker's purchasing power, thus discouraging work.
Our property tax system is full of inequities and disincentives. In 1978, Proposition 13 took the burden off property owners including corporations. It has resulted in an unequal and unfair burden on equivalent properties and on residential as compared to commercial properties, as well as an increased dependence by governments on the more regressive sales tax.
True Cost Pricing
True Cost Pricing (TCP) is an accounting and pricing system that relates to the Green values of ecological wisdom, sustainability, future focus, and social justice.
The inclusion of all costs into the price of a product would make more-ecologically-sound products cheaper to the consumer in terms of market price and the demand for these products would increase. Also, various cultural / traditional industries that have been marginalized by unrestrained technology could flourish.
For example, with solar power, if all the costs were considered (oil spills, air quality regulation, health care, massive subsidies to the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries), solar power would clearly be the cheapest alternative. Also, in the cattle industry, which is known to be severely detrimental to the environment, we subsidize the industry with free or cheap grazing land and water subsidies and we pay for the environmental aftereffects.
Many of the laws that exist to prevent environmental and social damage are not adequately enforced. Examples include smog checking of vehicles, and tobacco taxes and court settlements, which are not being used as intended.
The Green Party calls for the implementation of true cost pricing: 
The concept of true costing, as a part of cost / benefit analyses, should be a basis for decisions on government projects and in Environmental Impact Statements.
Integrate the concept of TCP into domestic industrial policies and regulations, and likewise, promote it in international trade agreements.
Enforce laws that exist to prevent environmental and social damage.
Provide education to explain that TCP incorporates the true life-cycle cost of a product. It will result in a net decrease in consumer prices as less damaging practices are adopted.
Implement product labeling to inform consumers of the total cost of the product's ingredients and manufacturing process.
Establish an information clearinghouse, consultant's network, and other communication channels for the exchange of information about ecologically benign techniques.
Recognize that TCP may have short term impact on people of lesser financial means and implement measures to mitigate these effects.
Taxes pay for important public services. The main purpose of taxes is to collect revenue to pay for these services. Other purposes are to discourage undesirable behavior and to encourage desirable behavior and to more equitably redistribute income. Any shift in tax policy must be done gradually. so that people and government can adjust to the changes. Also, changes should move toward appropriate scale of collection and use of taxes.
The basic tax policies of the state should be to foster a more equitable progressive tax structure, as opposed to the present regressive nature of California taxation which levies the heaviest burdens on those least able to pay. Sales, corporate and income taxes should be adjusted to relieve the burden on those less able to pay and increase the burden on large and multinational corporations and the super wealthy, who do not pay their fair share. Also, corporations receive tax breaks that promote growth and the consumption of resources rather than sustainability and social responsibility.
We propose:
Income, Sales and Corporate Taxes
A more progressive income tax: Raise the state income tax for higher income people. Also, reduce income taxes for low-wage workers to encourage people to seek employment rather than relying on public assistance.
A much higher gasoline tax to replace much of the sales tax, which generally has reached unfairly high levels in California.
Encourage the enactment of the Tobin tax on financial transactions. This tax, first proposed by a Nobel prize winning professor at Yale University, treats financial transactions across borders as taxable events.
Offsetting Regressive Taxes
Decreases in some taxes to offset the regressive nature of other taxes, such as the gas tax. Reduce Income tax for low-wage workers.
Decrease taxes on labor as opposed to capital. (Exception: Energy, pollution and other environmental excise taxes should be increased.)
Decrease the cap on the mortgage tax deduction in both federal and state income taxes.
Reinstate the renters tax credit on the state income tax.
With corporate tax policy, shift investments away from such things as automating the production of disposable products, which reduces the number of jobs. Also, discourage leveraged buyouts and mergers which extract working capital. Instead, we must promote community development and job creation.
Property Taxes
Reform Proposition 13 and replace it with a fairer distribution of property tax burden. Increase commercial property taxes compared to residential taxes and tax equivalent properties the same.
Increase the total property tax contribution to government financing relative to sales and income taxes.
Look into the relative impacts of the current property tax system versus a tax system based on the value of the underlying land.
Revenue Neutrality
We should aim for revenue neutrality in the tax changes we implement. We are not proposing a bigger overall role for government. However, there are some situations where certain priority activities are under-funded.