Which legislators stood up for California taxpayers this session?

CapitolIn 2017, the California Legislature launched a sustained and withering assault on middle-class taxpayers. Its victories were numerous and significant: A $75 per document recording tax was approved, affecting up to 400 different transactions; a gas and car tax, which takes effect November 1, will cost California households another $600 a year; and an increase in environmental regulations, known as cap-and-trade, could increase the cost of fuel by an additional 70 cents/gallon by 2030.

In the face of such devastating policies, it is easy for taxpayers to question whether legislators will ever be held accountable. However, a useful tool to assist taxpayers is the annual legislative Report Card published by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Introduced back in 2007, the point of the report card is to document how lawmakers have voted on issues important to taxpayers. Lawmakers tend to hide behind statements, often of dubious veracity, to justify their votes. The report card sets aside motives, politics and party affiliations and simply asks one question: did legislators stand up for the interests of taxpayers?  While politicians may obfuscate, the numbers don’t lie.

HJTA’s 2017 scorecard featured a list of 22 bills which, represents a broad sample size, making it easy to see who is either a friend to taxpayers or beholden to the special interests that pervade the state Capitol. Beyond the obvious tax increases listed above, other bills include those that make it easier for local governments to increase sales taxes, and allow for San Francisco Bay Area residents to increase bridge tolls. Attacks on the initiative process are another common theme highlighted in the scorecard.

Given the policy breadth of the bills listed above, it should come as no surprise that the 2017 scorecard was nothing short of abysmal. A record 79 legislators failed the scorecard while only 24 got a grade of “A.” Ten legislators received the coveted and difficult to get perfect score in 2017: Assembly Members Travis Allen, Brian Dahle, Vince Fong, Jay Obernolte and Jim Patterson. They were joined by State Sens. Joel Anderson, Patricia Bates, Jean Fuller, Mike Morrell and Jeff Stone. These legislators should be commended for their diligence on behalf of taxpayers. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register

Proposed CA Law Would Allow Bicyclists to Run Stop Signs

If two California lawmakers have their way, bicyclists will soon be able to run stop signs without stopping or even slowing down — in essence, legalizing the “California roll.”

According to a Los Angeles Times article, the “two-tiered approach to the rules of the road — one for cyclists and one for cars — is unlikely to ease growing tensions over sharing California’s roadways.”

The Assembly members proposing the measure, Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and Jay Obernolte, R-Hesperia, claim it would enhance public safety.

It may not be an easy sell, but Obernolte, an avid bicyclist himself, told the Times that allowing cyclists to run stop signs would reduce road congestion.  His theory is that since bicyclists would still have to stop at red lights, they might be “motivated them to take less-traveled side roads rather than main roadbicycle stop sign with traffic signals.”

That could lessen congestion and boost safety, he said.  Obernolte also claims that stopping at stop signs puts cyclists at greater risk, according to the same Times piece.  “Their loss of momentum causes them to spend a substantially longer amount of time in the intersection.”

What neither Obernolte nor Ting nor the Times addressed was the impact of the proposed policy on innocent bystanders.  In Ting’s own San Francisco, the Chronicle reported a 2013 fatality caused by a cyclist blowing through multiple stop signs on a downhill road and fatally striking a 71 year-old Sutchi Hui, of San Bruno, after running a red light. While the cyclist cut a deal with prosecutors in exchange for pleading guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter, his case illustrates how  changing the “same road, same rights, same rules” mentality could lead to more tragedies.

According to some bicycle advocates and traffic-safety experts quoted in the Times story, the greatest threat when it comes to the rules of the road is uncertainty—and any new law that creates uncertainty is likely to increase the potential for more untimely deaths.

The powerful bicycle lobby scored a victory in 2013, requiring motorists to maintain a 3-foot or greater distance from cyclists or risk being fined.  Initially, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown—echoing my own opposition speech on the Assembly floor (after the tragic death of a 48-year-old Kevin Garland, killed in a head-on collision in 2011 in the district now represented by Obernolte) because it would have allowed motorists to cross the double-yellow line on two-lane highways, increasing the chances of a head-on collision and opening the state and municipalities up to unlimited liability.

Exemptions to laws tend to breed resentment among those who must continue to obey them. Allowing bicyclists to “opt out” of stop signs may have the same effect.

“There’s nothing more frustrating to the average citizen than a law that’s selectively enforced,” Obernolte told the Times.

In the end, that might just stop this bill.

Tim Donnelly is a former California State Assemblyman.

Author, Patriot Not Politician: Win or Go Homeless

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/tim.donnelly.12/

Twitter:  @PatriotNotPol

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Tax Raisers Want To Keep Elections Secret

tax signDid you know that there was an election last Tuesday? Not many voters did, and the tax-and-spend crowd likes it that way. In this little publicized election, 29 out of 40 local tax increase measures passed.

Michael Coleman, Founder of the California Local Government Finance Almanac, notes the significance: “There were more local revenue measures on ballots this November than any of the four prior gubernatorial or presidential elections,” he said. “More were passed than ever before.”

Some might interpret these election results as a new acceptance of taxes by California voters. But for those of us who have observed government behavior for more than a few decades, we see a more sinister explanation. Specifically, that the tax raisers have become expert at gaming the system to pass tax and bond measures.

It is no coincidence that these tax increases were placed on an obscure odd year ballot, avoiding even year elections when gubernatorial and presidential races bring out more voters. But there is more.

Highly paid political consultants tell local officials not to publicize tax elections to the entire community, but to target only their supporters. This means running a stealth election, communicating (in the case of school bonds) with only administrators, the local teachers union, the PTA, and parents who have children in school. In tax elections, tax raisers use public employee union members to carry the torch.

A few years ago, at a seminar conducted for officials interested in passing tax measures, one consultant told those assembled to avoid town hall meeting style events. These, he said, bring out the “nuts.”

Since it is illegal for officials to use public resources (including public funds) to urge a vote for or against a political issue, consultants frequently counsel tax backers on the best way to wage “informational” campaigns. This includes sending out material stating all the good things a bond or tax measure will do, but stopping just short of violating the law by telling people how to vote.

Consultants tell their clients to always talk about the benefits a measure will bring — if somebody starts to talk about taxes, “move away from that and talk about what the benefit is.” If compelled to take about taxes, officials are counseled to put the cost in simple, friendly sounding terms that usually begin with “it’s only.” “It’s only a few cents a day,” or “it’s only a few dollars per month.” (A Los Angeles Community College District Chancellor once compared the cost of a bond to the cost of a “latte a month.”) Officials try to make it sound like the coming tax increase is trivial and that anyone who is opposed must be a cheapskate.

Even before a tax proposal is placed on the ballot, in most cases, officials have gained an advantage. They authorize surveys of voter sentiment to help them determine what sort of measure will most likely pass. Using taxpayer funds on these polls is justified by saying the information allows them to “better serve” the community.

Another advantage that gives tax raisers a leg up over taxpayers is that under law the agency sponsoring the new tax or bond gets to write the ballot question. That’s why the word “tax” is never seen.

However, when it comes to providing full disclosure to taxpayers on the impact of a local tax or bond measure there is good news that will impact future elections.

Gov. Brown has signed Assembly Bill 809 by Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, R-Big Bear. Sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, this bill requires that rate and duration of a local tax measure, as well as the amount of estimated revenue to be raised, be placed on the ballot label for voters to review. The ballot label, a short description of the measure, is typically the last thing voters see before voting.

Now, when cities, counties and school districts place taxes on the ballot, critical information will be made clear and it will be more difficult for local officials to place their “thumbs on the scale” to unfairly alter the outcome. But, while the passage of AB809 is a step in the right direction, the tax raisers still possess the motivation (i.e., self-interest) and the resources, to skew most local elections. So, if you are a taxpayer concerned about all the taxes, fee and charges you have to pay, you need to pay attention to every election, even the obscure ones.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis  Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Legislative Report Card: Who Passes; Who Fails On Taxes?

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Like inattentive students who dread having their parents see their unsatisfactory grades, most members of the California Legislature would just as soon not have their constituents see the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association Legislative Report Card documenting their votes on issues important to taxpayers.

Of the 120 members of the Legislature, 73 received a grade of “F” while only 36 earned an “A” grade.

The Report Card is a non-partisan tool for citizen taxpayers to hold legislators accountable based on actual legislative votes. It was Will Rogers who said, “If you ever injected truth into politics you have no politics.” While a satirist is allowed to paint with a broad brush, there is still more than a grain of truth here. Many in the political class dishonestly attempt to present themselves as standing for the interests of average folks. They pay lip service to low and moderate income Californians, while voting to make getting to work more expensive by increasing the already tops in the nation gasoline tax. They claim to be supporters of homeownership, but support measures that would increase the tax burden on property owners.

In the legislative session that ended last month, Governor Brown signed 808 bills. These bills create thousands of pages of new laws, spanning across dozens of code sections. The HJTA Legislative Report Card pulls the curtain back and identifies for taxpayers legislation that harms their interests, bills that otherwise do not receive much public attention. A prime example is Senate Bill 705 (Hill) a bill that was completely amended in the last month of session that allows for San Mateo and Monterey counties to pursue increased sales taxes beyond those authorized in current law.

The Report Card also rewards lawmakers who supported legislation that helps taxpayers like Assembly Bill 809 (Obernolte), an HJTA sponsored proposal that places additional information regarding tax increases in the ballot for all voters to see.

Votes on sixteen bills were used to score legislators. These reflect a range of policy issues including new tax and regulatory burdens, and attacks on the initiative process that would make it more difficult for taxpayers to have their voices heard.

With over a quarter of the members of the Legislature new to Sacramento politics, the HJTA Report Card provides an early indication as to who will be faithful to the interests of taxpayers. While grades have improved slightly over last year, it is clear that this new legislative class has started off by falling well short of taxpayer expectations.

Eight lawmakers deserve credit for a perfect score. Members of the Assembly receiving 100 percent are Frank Bigelow, Brian Jones, Beth Gaines, Tom Lackey, Chad Mayes, Jay Obernolte, and Jim Patterson. Senator Mike Morrell also received a perfect score.

To view the 2015 Legislative Report Card, and find which representatives are proud of their grades and which ones hope no one notices, please go to www.hjta.org where it can be found under “Hot Topics.” And remember, a functioning democracy depends on an informed electorate.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis  Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.