It does not matter which part of the country you look at, the recession has been biting hard. One of the less obvious effects has been the fall in the amount of tax revenue collected by city councils and state governments. Property taxes? Well, no properties have held their value and many are unoccupied and awaiting sale. The take from local sales taxes and other sources have also fallen. There are deficits everywhere. No one wants to raise any of the taxes. Everyone in politics is therefore playing the game of finding cuts to public services. Except, every now and again, a politician comes up with an idea and you just have to rise in standing applause. The way of collecting money is just so magnificently outrageous you have to applaud the savviness of the politicians who could sell it locally and have the nerve to enforce it. Welcome to the world of Californian ingenuity. With an economy equal to several European countries rolled into one, California has been facing major deficit problems for the last ten and more years. It all comes from the massive rise in population from 24 million in 1980 to 34 million in 2000. This is the largest population increase in any US state and it forced government at all levels to expand public services from new roads to schools to healthcare services. This would not have been a problem except Californian voters vote for tax limits as in Proposition 13 reducing reliance on property taxes for government spending. This has left the state with major deficit headaches for years. So, if taxes cannot rise and voters want to see spending maintained on public services, creativity is required. Welcome to Huntington Beach unless, of course, after reading this, you decide you would rather steer clear of this friendly place. If you get into a traffic accident inside the city limits, you will be presented with a bill of up to $ 3,000 to cover the response of the emergency services. There’s actually a price list. If you are trapped in your vehicle, that’s $ 2,000 to pry the metal apart to free you. If there’s a fire, it will cost you $ 750 for the fire services to put it out – that’s on top of the $ 405 an hour for every fire truck that attends the scene of your accident. First, the good news. If you are a taxpaying resident of Huntington Beach you get rescued for free. The tax dollars you pay cover the cost of the services. But if you live outside the city, you are liable. Now the bad news. If your auto insurance does not cover this expense, the bill comes directly to you. So, if you are planning a visit to Orange County (yes, the list of cities following Huntington Beach is growing rapidly) check out your auto insurance policy to ensure you will not be even more out of pocket than usual should you get into an accident. It really does not pay to have an accident in Orange County.

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