|The Legacy Of Prop 13|
Dear Governor Moon Beam,
By David Wolfe, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
August 10, 2011
Last month, the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Times released a poll that asked Californians a number of questions about the state of the economy and the recently passed budget. The poll seemed straightforward enough until the questions delved into increasing revenues, specifically local tax increases. Somewhat shockingly the poll showed that 55% of those surveyed favored the tax hikes.
No doubt State Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg was watching this question with some interest. Earlier in the year, Steinberg introduced SB 653 allowing city, county and school district residents to approve a whole host of exactions including higher income, sales, car, tobacco, soda, and oil severance taxes.
In June when it became clear Republicans wouldn't put up a two-thirds vote for taxes, Steinberg threatened the business community and taxpayer groups by dropping the contents of SB 653 into a budget trailer bill. He asserted that because budget trailer bills "take effect immediately" that they would not be subject to referendum. The threat quickly fell apart after Steinberg's own attorneys in Legislative Counsel reached the opposite conclusion.
This brings us back to the poll and the obvious question: if the numbers were so good then why did Steinberg pull the bill for this year? Simply put, the devils in the details. With the exception of an oil severance tax, the poll question only lists 'sin taxes' (i.e. purchasing the product can be detrimental to your health) including alcohol, tobacco, and soda as ones to be increased. Not surprisingly, these categories tend to poll better then the more regressive income and sales tax hikes. That's what also made the question deceptive. SB 653 and the budget bill also included a new one percent county income tax, and would allow cities and counties to increase sales taxes beyond their existing two percent cap, facts not included in the wording of the poll. By rejecting Proposition 1A in 2009 by a 2:1 margin, voters clearly demonstrated that they were not in favor of extended income and sales taxes, particularly a new unprecedented county income tax.
Poll participants may also have been confused by a question that read that taxes were only being increased "on many specific items that only the state is currently allowed to tax." This may have led to an assumption that the state would decrease some of their General Fund budget in order to allow for more fiscally responsible local government control. If you believe that, I have a bridge on the River Kwai to sell you.
So why did Senator Steinberg pull the plug on his tax plan? An existing tobacco tax on the June ballot next year perhaps aided his decision, but ultimately he was left staring at the business community on one side and angry taxpayers on the other. The former would have ensured the funding and signatures were there to qualify a referendum for the ballot in short order. The latter have a long history of rejecting taxes by wide margins, including all seven on the ballot since 2006. Six of the seven have been defeated by double-digit margins. Especially as we head into a vigorous 2012 campaign cycle, all sides of the ideological spectrum should heed this data.
The mission statement of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association reads:
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers' rights including the right to limited taxation, the right to vote on tax increases and the right of economical, equitable and efficient use of taxpayer dollars.
Accomplished taxpayer advocate and prominent attorney Jon Coupal, as President of the HJTA, heads up an organization that plays a critical role here in the Golden State. Beginning with the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, the HJTA has consistently been the lead organization looking out for the rights of California taxpayers. In literally EVERY major battle that occurs in Sacramento, where the forces of irresponsible government growth are trying to figure out another scheme to raise taxes or fees to redistribute taxpayer funds to the latest 'must fund' program, Jon and the HJTA are there to ask the tough quest ions, and to wave a big stick. You see, the HJTA doesn't just talk the talk. Whether leading efforts to get their many, many grassroots members to lobby their elected officials, going to court to fight illegal tax increases, or marshaling resources to take tax-protection measures to the electorate, HJTA has been there. But not just on a statewide level, but also at the local level - fighting against local bond measures and fee-increase schemes that seek to unduly and unfairly burden taxpayers.
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Respectfully Yours, Oscar Knows