Latest ‘racist’ Smear Against Prop.13

Here we go again. Another “study” purporting to reveal how unfair Proposition 13 is. But this time, the tax-hikers are using the progressives’ favorite catch-all justification: inequity and racism. Prop. 13 has been under constant assault for 42 years by people who want to raise property taxes without limitation. Like all their other arguments, this one won’t stick either.

First, let’s review a few of the many complaints leveled against Prop. 13 over the last few decades. An early one was the “nosy neighbor” argument, complaining that some new homebuyers pay more in property taxes than their neighbors. Of course, exactly like their neighbors, new buyers’ taxes are based on the price they paid for the property, and increases are capped after that.

Next there was the false charge that “Prop. 13 starves education.” Then there was bitterness that Snow White didn’t pay enough in taxes on her Disneyland castle. Now the theme is Social Justice and the Fight Against Racism.

The 47-page report from the Opportunity Institute and Pivot Learning, titled “Unjust Legacy,” wrongly asserts that Proposition 13 has contributed to inequities in schools and communities. Contrary to the authors’ contention that Proposition 13 is unfair to minorities, the nation’s highest court concluded just the opposite. In Nordlinger v. Hahn, the United States Supreme Court expressly stated that California can “legitimately … decide to structure its tax system to discourage rapid turnover in ownership of homes and businesses, for example, in order to inhibit displacement of lower income families by the forces of gentrification.”

Ironically, at the same time the “Unjust Legacy” report was being released in California, the Washington Post carried a story out of Texas with the headline “Modern ‘redlining’ is pushing some Texans out of their homes.” The Post relates the sad situation of Rebecca Flores, a 79-year-old woman in San Antonio who wants to keep her home in the family. But “she and many of her mostly Mexican American neighbors say they are being priced out of their homes due to skyrocketing property taxes and a hot housing market that has developers pressuring them to sell in the rapidly gentrifying city.”

The Post notes that rising home values, and the rising property taxes that follow, threaten to displace the longtime residents who helped give San Antonio its distinctive culture and character. “It’s a crisis facing cities across America,” the paper reports, “where housing is in short supply, affordable housing is even scarcer, and investors are sweeping into high-demand markets with big cash offers that are pricing many Americans out of the market altogether.”

Flores, the 79-year-old grandmother, is at her wits’ end. “This is how the fiber of a community is frayed,” she said. “Investors come and take over. It’s just like 1836, people with money came and changed laws, got the land and the power and they threw all the Mexicans out. Here we are in 2022, and they are doing the same thing all over again.”

The so-called “Unjust Legacy” report concludes that scholars and others “should collectively determine what it will take to overcome political and taxpayer resistance to changing Proposition 13.” This is a thoughtless assault on California property owners, who do not pay property tax bills “collectively.” They pay property taxes for the property they own, based on the price they paid, with an annual inflation adjustment that cannot exceed 2%.

Click here to read the full article in the Daily Breeze

California’s Budget Is a Scam

Once again, the California Legislature has engaged in the most meaningless exercise imaginable – passing the state budget. In other states, where progressivism is less dominant, the annual budget is an important legislative act. In California, it means squat.

If the enactment of the annual budget is so pointless, why does the legislature even bother to pass it? The answer is simple. The Constitution requires the passage of a budget bill in order for members of the Legislature to receive their paychecks.

It wasn’t always this way. But in 2010, the legislature put Proposition 25 on the ballot. Entitled the “On-Time Budget Act of 2010,” its real purpose was to repeal the requirement that the budget bill receive a two-thirds vote of both houses. Knowing that voters are rightfully suspicious of lowering any vote threshold, the legislature voters sold the proposal by saying that, if they approved Prop 25, budgets would be passed on time, with greater transparency and that legislators would forfeit their pay if the budget was late. All three of these representations were lies.

The reality is that since Prop. 25 passed, California has no budget process. The “budget bill,” which is supposed to be a comprehensive spending plan for the fiscal year reflecting the policy priorities of the state, has now morphed into an ongoing legislative process that has no beginning and no end. “Budget bills” are now being enacted nearly a year after the June 15th deadline, despite legislators being able to collect their paychecks in the meantime.

After Proposition 25 became law, dozens of bills have been designated as “budget related” even though they have nothing to do with the budget, just to take advantage of Prop. 25’s easier rules for passing bills. Many bills that would otherwise require a two-thirds vote can suddenly become an “amendment” to a budget bill, and then they can be passed with only a simple majority. There’s no requirement for a hearing in the legislative committee that has jurisdiction over that area of policy, and the public has no opportunity to submit public comments or to question their representatives about their votes for the bill.

The process is now so scripted, it makes a Kabuki dance look like improvisational theater.

Longtime political writer Dan Walters labeled the 1,000-page budget “another sham, drafted largely in secret with minimal public exposure and many blanks to be filled in later.” Even the decidedly left-of-center Sacramento Bee succinctly summarized the state of play with this headline: “California Democrats passed a fake budget so they could get paid. Taxpayers have to wait.”

Click here to read the full article in the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Can Sanity Prevail in California?

Victor Davis Hanson is a resident scholar at the Hoover Institute and lifelong Californian from the Central Valley.

He recently spoke at a conference of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association members. For the naïve who want an optimistic presentation about how great California is, VDH is not your guy. He gives an accurate, if depressing, view of the current state of the state. In both his writings and speeches, he assesses just how far California has deteriorated; from homelessness, poverty, cost of living, crime, taxes, business climate, etc., ad nauseum.

The decline of California has, as most know, led to an unprecedented exodus out of the state. So much so that for the first time in its history, California has lost representation in Congress. In addition to the 2 million people who have already left California, far more are seriously considering it. Facebook now has a group called “Life after California” with rapidly growing membership.

But most Californians are unlikely to leave, at least anytime soon.

They will stay either because they are willing to tolerate all that is wrong here, or they are not able to leave.

A Central Valley farmer isn’t going to pick up his orchard and move to Texas.

Neither is the retired couple who want to stay close to family members, including grandchildren.

But simply because tens of millions will stay in California does not mean they are oblivious to its ills.

Those deciding to stick it out here in the formerly Golden State are constantly on the lookout for some faint signs that things might get better. Last week’s primary election returns might provide such a sign, although it would be foolish to believe there has been a political sea change.

First, the good news. It now appears that voters in the most liberal city in America have had it with rising crime. Given that you can count the number of Republicans in San Francisco on two hands, the rejection of the city’s District Attorney, Chesa Boudin, certainly wasn’t a partisan fight. San Franciscans of all political stripes simply felt unsafe on city streets as tens of thousands had their cars or homes broken into. It doesn’t take a conservative to want serious criminal acts to result in serious criminal penalties, including incarceration.

As in San Francisco, crime and homelessness are top issues.

Throughout California, even within Democrat-on-Democrat races, the more moderate candidates seemed to be outperforming their more progressive counterparts, although many races remain too close to call.

Whether California’s election results represent a meaningful shift away from radical progressivism or merely a blip in the relentless leftward movement in California is the subject of a national debate. Even the New York Times wrote that the recall of Boudin was “a stark warning to the Democratic Party.”

Legislature Says Transparency for Thee, but Not For Me

Examples of hypocrisy and double standards in California politics are too numerous to count. But some stand out more than others.

Two bills, both designated as “job killers” by the California Chamber of Commerce, would require companies to hand over to the government more data about pay and internal practices. Under AB 2095 (Kalra; D-San Jose), employers would have to file detailed annual reports of wage and hour data and employee benefits on their entire United States workforce. AB 1162 (Limon; D-Goleta) would incentivize frivolous litigation against employers by private attorneys based on the publication of broad, immaterial data collected by the state.

Fortunately, both burdensome proposals are currently stalled in the Legislature, and we can hope they eventually die.

But the mere fact that they, and other rules related to disclosure imposed on the private sector, made it this far got us thinking about how the ruling party in California is all for transparency for others, but not themselves.

One area of complaint in the Legislature is the continued practice of sweeping harassment cases under the rug, or slow-walking them. Recent articles in both the San Francisco Chronicle and Sacramento Bee have attempted to uncover the process employed by the Legislature in response to “Me Too” complaints. But it appears that a specially created “Workplace Conduct Unit” has been less than forthcoming about how it processes – or doesn’t process – complaints of harassment.

Another example of hypocrisy is progressive encouragement of unionization in both the private sector and public sectors. In fact, a recent bill, SB 931 (Leyva) would impose civil penalties on public employers for deterring or discouraging public employees from becoming members of an employee organization. And yet, at the same time, the legislature failed to pass a bill, AB 314 (Gonzalez), that would have permitted the Legislature’s own staff members to form a union. Granted, AB 314 was a bad bill for many reasons, but its defeat exposes the hypocrisy of legislative leaders.

Lack of transparency has, regrettably, become part of the DNA in Sacramento politics. Take the budget. While Gov. Newsom recently announced how he would like to spend the state’s $95.7 billion windfall of other people’s money, the actual budget will be negotiated by him and the two Democratic legislative leaders behind closed doors. Republicans, the media, and the public are shut out of providing any input, or even comment.

Worse yet is the increasingly prolific use of “trailer bills” in the budget process. These legislative devices often start out as blank legislation with literally no content at all. But when the governor or legislators want to pay off political favors for special interests or their own members, they quickly “amend” the blank trailer bills to add the deals, a tactic that conceals the content of the bills from the public until it’s too late. This ploy was used twice to change the law relating to recall elections, both of which benefited the ruling party.

The only law on the books to counter anti-disclosure hypocrisy is the California Legislature Transparency Act (CLTA), which requires that every bill be in print and posted online for at least 72 hours before its final vote in either house of the Legislature. This helps to reduce – but not eliminate – the use of last-minute “gut-and-amend” tactics. The CLTA also requires that all open legislative meetings be video recorded and posted on the internet within 24 hours.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Endangering Democracy for Lawmakers’ Convenience

Gov. Gavin Newsom has proudly proclaimed that “California does democracy like nowhere else in the world.” But as he warned, we cannot take our democracy for granted. The pandemic has changed how we do business: segments of the private world now operate remotely without the need for face-to-face interactions. But in a democracy, the function of government requires greater public transparency and accountability for its very foundation.

Photo courtesy of DB’s travels, Flickr.

This year, a trio of bills in the legislature would take the wrong lesson from the pandemic and undermine these democratic values for the convenience of politicians – allowing public officials to engage in policymaking from private locations that are not identified, or accessible to the public, or even located within the state – without need or justification.

Our open meetings laws have been protecting democracy for decades. But even as early as 1855 California law recognized that “place is an essential ingredient” of lawmaking because the officers of government “ought to be found by the citizen who is in search of them.” Access to government officials is essential for the public as well as media representatives, whether the community is concerned about tax rates or fighting for our civil liberties. Throughout history, a key organizing tool for impacted communities has been to show up to public meetings to confront the public officials and to hold them accountable. Public access also ensures that we know who else is in the room when policy decisions are made.

During the pandemic, government bodies have been forced to strike a balance between legitimate public health concerns and the value of public meetings. We have seen some government bodies suffer as the challenges of remote participation resulted in breakdowns in the ordinary government processes. Public officials were not only secluded in private homes, but many also turned off their video cameras for an entire meeting, leaving their constituents and the media attempting to engage with an empty screen. In one notable example, a Board of Supervisors member routinely teleconferenced in from his estate in Montana, far removed from his constituents. This setup understandably fosters mistrust and suspicion about public servants and the bodies on which they serve. While it may be necessary in an emergency, it is no model for good government.

Click here to read the full article at San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Gas Tax Fight and Memories of 1978

With the state government of California sitting on a budget surplus that exceeds $50 billion, Sacramento politicians can’t bring themselves to return a few dollars to middle-class taxpayers.

While the cost of consumer goods and services is rising rapidly, due mostly to feckless government policies, it is the cost of gasoline that truly sticks in the craw of average Californians. Conservatives in the Legislature, mostly Republicans, have accused the Democrats of intentionally running out the clock on providing gas tax relief before an automatic increase goes into effect on May 1st.

That accusation is well-founded.

Nearly a year ago, Republicans in the state Senate pushed for a “gas tax holiday,” including a full suspension on state gas tax collection for the current fiscal year.

The suspension could have easily been backfilled by the state’s overflowing general fund, which would protect transportation funding.

Later, they offered amendments formally requesting the suspension of the state gas tax and postponing the pending increase.

In the Assembly, who can forget the Democrats’ ambush of Assembly Bill 1638 by Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, another gas tax suspension proposal?

Again, by refusing to even hear the bill the ruling political class is revealed as wholly disconnected to the concerns of average citizens.

That’s too bad because a one year suspension of the gas tax would have reduced the cost of fuel by 51.1 cents per gallon, providing instant tax relief.

It is also an elegantly simple solution that would have been easy for state bureaucrats to administer.

While the majority party in the legislature has slow-walked gas tax relief, Gov. Gavin Newsom at least put the issue on the table by introducing some gas price relief in his original January budget as well as his March State of the State speech.

But legislative leaders in both houses rejected his proposal, falsely claiming that transportation projects wouldn’t be fully funded.

Rather, they said they would prefer some sort of direct payments to taxpayers but weren’t clear on who would get the money.

Which brings us to today, exactly where we were a year ago except that now, both the price of gas as well as the gas tax are higher.

It is no surprise that a recent PPIC poll reveals that record percentages of voters believe they are overtaxed. What is surprising, however, is why a majority of our elected representatives in Sacramento are turning a blind eye to the problem and not taking any meaningful action.

If past is prologue, political foot-dragging on tax relief can be very dangerous.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

Just Say ‘No’ To No-Bid State Contracts

During the past two years, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has paid billions of dollars in secretive no-bid contracts with little to no transparency. Now Newsom is deploying his same secretive approach to a growing number of other public contracts. All Californians, irrespective of party affiliation, should be deeply concerned.

Photo courtesy of DB’s travels, Flickr.

Especially troubling is the Newsom administration’s perverse penchant for no-bid contracts, many of which renew automatically. Since 2020, his administration entered into more than 8,000 no-bid contracts, many of which were valued at more than $25 million. By the end of 2020, the total amount was nearly $12 billion.

The latest example? Instead of simply suspending the state’s gas tax, Newsom wants to award a no-bid government contract to a yet-to-be-named third-party vendor to manage a process of providing rebates to Californians, a lot of busywork to distract drivers from the fact that he’s making them pay the state’s highest-in-the-nation gas taxes.

After the horrible mess the EDD made by distributing payment cards in 2020, one has to wonder, what could go wrong?

During the same period that cash and no-bid contracts were being handed out, behested payments on behalf of the governor surged. These are “donations” for charitable or governmental purposes that are specifically requested by elected officials, often from companies with business before the state. In 2020 alone, $227 million was “donated” at the “behest” of the governor, a huge spike compared to just $12.1 million in 2019. This even got the attention of the Los Angeles Times, which wrote that “many of the donors have other business before the governor, received no-bid government contracts over the last year or were seeking favorable appointments on important state boards,” which “creates the appearance of a pay-to-play system.”

Sub-par no-bid contracts risk the squandering of taxpayer dollars and renewing no-bid contracts without reviewing their merits not only wastes taxpayer money but is also a way of skirting California’s contracting process.

For example, in 2020, the Newsom administration awarded a $1.7 billion no-bid contract to the Valencia Branch Laboratory to process COVID-19 tests for the state. Less than a year later, we learned of shocking waste and fraud occurring in the lab. The truth came out thanks to selfless whistleblowers, one of whom is now being sued by the company operating the lab.

For months, Senate Republicans called for a full release of the state investigations on the lab. For months, the state stalled, ultimately complying only after the contract had already auto-renewed.

Because of this fiasco and the larger problem of no-bid contracts, one of the co-authors of this column, Sen. Scott Wilk, introduced three bills – which the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association supports – to bring accountability to the process: SB 947, SB 1271, and SB 1367.

SB 947 would empower employees of state government contracts to blow the whistle on fraud, waste or abuse by granting them whistleblower protections already afforded to state workers. SB 1271 would require no-bid contracts of $25 million or more to be subject to oversight of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee prior to renewal or extension of the contract. SB 1367 would prohibit a state agency from awarding a contract to entities that have provided behested payments on the governor’s behalf in the preceding 12 months.

Click here to read the full article at the Press Enterprise

Sacramento Democrats Kill Gas Tax Relief, Transparency

As a participant in capital politics for more than 30 years, I’ve observed many abuses of power. Corruption, pettiness, gross narcissism, and dirty tricks have all increased in recent years both in terms of frequency and shock value. The latest incident, and honestly one of the more disturbing I have seen, occurred in the Assembly Transportation Committee last week.

Californians are reeling at the pump as our gas prices are the highest in the nation. The working poor and middle class are begging the Legislature for relief, which is why Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin, introduced AB 1638. The bill would simply suspend the gas tax for six months.

Democrats are loath to return money to those who earned it, which is why they planned to ambush Kiley’s proposal. But their plan, much like Putin’s ill-advised invasion of Ukraine, backfired badly.

Although the bill hadn’t appeared on the agenda for the day’s hearing, Kiley was told it would be heard in committee on just a couple of hours’ notice. When he arrived, he noticed an Assembly parliamentarian was in the room, strong evidence that some procedural scheme was being cooked up.

Following the legislative formalities, the first member of the committee to speak on the bill was Alex Lee, D-San Jose. After railing on the oil companies, he immediately moved to strike all the contents of Kiley’s bill and replace it with a new tax on gas suppliers. Revenue from that tax would supposedly be sent out to people in the form of a rebate. So, in a matter of minutes, Kiley’s gas tax cut had somehow turned into a gas tax increase.

Click here to read the full article at the Redlands Daily Facts

California’s New Death Tax Is A Year Old

Anniversaries and birthdays are usually thought of as celebratory events, but on February 16th, California marked an unhappy milestone.

It started in November 2020, when voters narrowly passed Proposition 19. While the initiative contained some positive elements, it also repealed an important taxpayer protection from the California Constitution that taxpayers have relied on for nearly 35 years.

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Specifically, on February 16, 2021, Prop. 19 went into effect, resurrecting a Death Tax on property that voters had eliminated back in 1986. Today, one year later, thousands of families have personally encountered the unwelcome and cruel return of the Death Tax.

Here is how the Death Tax works. It is triggered on the date of the passing of the last surviving parent or grandparent. Their home or small business is reassessed to current market value and then their children or grandchildren are hit with the Death Tax — a massive increase in the annual property tax bill.Top

Not only has the Death Tax has upended the estate plans of parents and grandparents, their children and grandchildren are just now learning of the devastating effects of Prop. 19. Even those who wish to move into an inherited home are not protected from higher taxes. In one recent call to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, a grieving child told us about the home his parents purchased in Alameda County many years ago in an area that has become quite desirable. His mother passed last year, and the one-year deadline is fast approaching for his decision on whether he will move in or not. His new tax bill will be $16,000 per year if he moves in and $26,000 if he doesn’t. He said he doesn’t know if he can afford to keep his family home, either way. His only hope is if the Repeal the Death Tax initiative gets on the November ballot and passes.

The Death Tax threatens to gradually wipe out the availability and security of housing for renters. The passing of mom-and-pop landlords triggers the reassessment of buildings to current market value. That could mean the sale of the property by the owner’s children if they are unable to afford their new tax bill. For the tenants, the outcome is likely to be a rent increase or eviction.

As we reflect on the one-year anniversary of the Death Tax, it is clear that Californians are in need of the restoration of the taxpayer protections that have been lost. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association understands the consequences of unaffordable property taxes, which is why we have introduced the Repeal the Death Tax Act for the November 2022 ballot. This measure would restore the Constitutional taxpayer protections that would allow for the inter-generational transfer of properties without triggering reassessment and massive tax bills.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

California Is The Mad Scientist Of Bad Policy

If these United States are 50 laboratories of democracy, then California is the mad scientist of far-left policies. That was evident last week as some of the session’s most controversial bills tried to clear the Assembly and continue through the legislative process.

From a bill to impose “sector-wide minimum standards” for wages, hours and working conditions at fast-food chains (that unfortunately passed the Assembly and now heads to the Senate) to forcing owners of rent-controlled apartment buildings to stay in that business for at least five years — even if they were losing money (that fortunately failed to garner enough support), the Legislature’s radicalism was on full display. But those measure were small potatoes compared to Assembly Bill 1400, which would have required the state to provide health care coverage for residents, after abolishing all private health insurance and Medicare.

Fortunately, AB 1400 also failed to get enough support in the Assembly to move on, but we’re likely to see it again. The state’s Democratic Party has added single-payer health care to its platform, and the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party has vowed not to endorse any candidate that opposes single-payer health care.

That’s why it’s important to make clear why such a proposal should never be considered again. First, the taxes necessary to implement such a program would be astronomical. The author of AB 1400 proposed raising taxes by $163 billion dollars a year, but the actual cost could be upwards of $391 billion per year, according to the staff report from the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Click here to read the full article at the Press Enterprise