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ABC Uses California Fires to Tout Homeowner Who 'Would Gladly Pay More Taxes'

ABC's World News, which has twice in the past few months rued how it's too hard to raise taxes in California, on Tuesday night used one homeowner's appreciation, for the firefighters battling the wild fires threatening his house near Los Angeles, to tout how "he would gladly pay more taxes."

Reporting from Tujunga, Brian Rooney warned "California has burned through nearly two-thirds of its emergency firefighting money early in the season," so "the Governor and other authorities today politicked for even more emergency funds." After a clip of a union official, Rooney highlighted: "One homeowner, at least, says he would gladly pay more taxes after watching the performance of firefighters." In the subsequent soundbite, the unidentified man didn't actually say he wanted higher taxes, just that the current high level is worth it for the performance of the firefighters (who only get a small sliver of the state budget): "I think we're the highest in the union, but for last night I'm happy to pay it."

The May 19 BiasAlert item, "ABC Regrets California's 'Unwillingness to Raise Taxes,'" recounted:

A Tuesday story on ABC's World News, which ignored soaring state spending, reflected frustration with California voters for the anticipated rejection of ballot initiatives to raise taxes as reporter Laura Marquez blamed the Golden State's budget deficit on an "unwillingness to raise taxes" stretching all the way back to 1978's Proposition 13. In fact, though personal income tax collections "dropped 14% last year," a Tuesday Wall Street Journal article noted they "soared 70% from 2002 to 2007."

Marquez: "Coast to coast, state governments are swimming in red ink, overwhelmed by the tanking economy. Here in California, the problem is even worse because of its sheer size and an unwillingness to raise taxes. Thirty years ago, Californians passed Proposition 13, mandating an almost unachievable two-thirds vote by the legislature to raise taxes."

Two weeks later, "ABC Rues 'It's a Lot Easier to Make Cuts Than It is To Raise Taxes,'" relayed:

ABC's Laura Marquez....repeated herself as she lamented "education and social services continue to end up on the chopping block" because "it's a lot easier to make cuts than it is to raise taxes" since Prop 13 requires "the approval of two-thirds of the legislature to raise taxes, a virtual impossibility."....World News anchor Charles Gibson emphasized the victims in teasing the upcoming story: "Governor Schwarzenegger's dire warning to California: The poor, the hungry, the very young - all facing painful cuts."

From Rooney's lead story on the Tuesday, September 1 World News:

BRIAN ROONEY: ...California has burned through nearly two-thirds of its emergency firefighting money early in the season. The Governor and other authorities today politicked for even more emergency funds. LOU PAULSON, PRESIDENT, CALIFORNIA PROFESSIONAL FIREFIGHTERS: If we were to deal with two or three more major incidents in the state of California - fires, floods, natural disasters or man-made disasters, there's not enough depth of resources in the state of California.

ROONEY: One homeowner, at least, says he would gladly pay more taxes after watching the performance of firefighters.

MAN: I think we're the highest in the union, but for last night I'm happy to pay it.

ROONEY: For the time being, though, there's been no shortage of money available to fight fires...

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center