Jerry Brown Blames California’s Coming Insolvency on Prop. 13

SACRAMENTO, CA - OCTOBER 27: California Governor Jerry Brown announces his public employee pension reform plan October 27, 2011 at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California. Gov. Brown proposed 12 major reforms for state and local pension systems that he claims would end abuses and reduce taypayer costs by billions of dollars. (Photo by Max Whittaker/Getty Images)

Gov. Jerry Brown is blaming California’s coming insolvency on Proposition 13, which was passed in response to his first term policies in the late 1970s.

Gov. Brown has been warning Californians since May that the state’s eight-year economic expansion will not last forever, and the next “moderate recession” could cause state revenues to fall by $55 billion over the following three years.

To put the size of such a challenge in perspective, California’s annual spending budget for general government payroll and benefits is only $10 billion.

At the Jan. 10 press conference following release of his last proposed 2018-19 state budget, Brown blamed Proposition 13 three times for the precarious financial condition he has had to wrestle with in his four terms as governor of the Golden State.

Jerry Brown was 36 when he was first elected governor in 1974. He ran in his first election campaign in 1974 on a promise to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to fight Gov. Ronald Reagan’s deficit spending. But once in office, Brown fought oil company drilling and arrogantly pushed for new spending on expensive environmental mandates.

With inflation rampant and senior citizens scared that unlimited increases in property tax would take their homes, Howard Jarvis rallied voters to gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures to put Proposition 13 on the ballot in 1978. Despite opposition from Brown and every Democrat politician in Sacramento, the initiative passed with a 62.6 percent majority. Brown was forced to slash spending by $5 billion, or 20 percent.

Gov. Brown told reporters 40 year later, “The passage of Proposition 13, and the insertion of the state government into local funding and local decision-making, has radically changed the nature of California government.”

Brown remained quiet in June 2015 when the Democrat super-majority in the California Legislature wanted to put an amendment on the state ballot to eliminate Prop 13 restrictions on taxing commercial and industrial property.

But with polling for split-roll never receiving over 50 percent support, Gov. Brown ended the tax increase push in October when he told real estate interests that Prop 13 was California’s “political third rail” and that he would not support any vote to change the law.

Gov. Brown has proposed a $190.3 billion balanced budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year beginning July 1. It is the sixteenth and last budget in his four terms as governor. Brown’s budget proposal includes a $5 billion allocation to his voter-approved Proposition 2 “rainy day” fund, bringing the total reserve fund to $13.5 billion.

Breitbart News reported that Brown’s conservative budget proposal is a direct challenge to his own party. His former Democrat allies in the California legislature announced a budget plan in December that includes spending $4.3 billion more than on social justice issues — including providing illegal aliens with eligibility for California’s Medicaid program; expanding a tax credit for the working poor; boosting preschool and child care; and increasing college scholarships to reduce reliance on student loans.

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These ballot initiatives could be headed your way in November

Voting BoothsDirect democracy can be an exhausting business.

This year civically engaged Californians will be expected to have informed opinions about affordable housing and park funding, how best to divvy up cap-and-trade money, how to spend the state’s new gas tax money, and when new voter-approved laws ought to be enacted.

And those are just the measures on the ballot so far.

Joining those five—all of which come referred from the Legislature and most of which are destined for the June ballot—are the citizen-backed proposals, which must compete for spots on the November ballot. More than 40 have already been cleared to be passed around the state gathering signatures, while another dozen await the go-ahead from the state attorney general.

What’s on the menu this year? It’s still too soon to say for sure, but here are some major themes and a few examples of what you can expect to see:

Fiscal Fixers

California pioneered fiscal populism with voter-approved constitutional amendments like Prop. 13. So it wouldn’t be a California election without at least a few voter-backed proposals that take a blow torch to the state tax code.

  • Lower Taxes:

Last year, the Democrats kicked off the legislative session by passing a $5 billion-plus transportation plan, funded with new fuel and vehicle fees. There’s a reason they chose to raise the gas tax as far from election day as possible.

Now two initiatives have been proposed in response: One, backed by San Diego Republican Carl DeMaio, would require voter approval for this and all future fuel and vehicle tax hikes. The second, supported by Republican gubernatorial candidate Travis Allen, would simply repeal the fuel and vehicle fees. The DeMaio initiative has made more progress so far, but either way, the California GOP’s political good fortune in 2018 may rest on anti-gas tax fervor.

In the meantime, it’s an election year so expect another fight about property taxes. Prop. 13, California’s original tax revolt initiative, caps the rate that property taxes can increase on a particular homeowner from one year to the next. The longer a homeowner stays in an appreciating house, the stronger the incentive to stay put and keep your low taxes, even if downsizing or relocating might be more practical. The California Association of Realtors has proposed a solution: change the California Constitution to allow older or disabled homeowners to take a portion of their lowered property tax base with them when they move.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, named for the father of Prop. 13, has proposed a simpler way to lower taxes: give qualifying homeowners and renters a $500 tax credit.

  • Higher Taxes:

While the Realtors push for an expansion for Prop. 13, a growing coalition of progressives will soon be campaigning for a partial rollback. This proposed initiative would strip the benefits of lower property taxes from certain industrial and commercial properties and use the additional revenue to fund schools.

The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers has proposed a more straightforward source of revenue: hike taxes on millionaires by 1 percent and channel the money to hospitals serving low income Californians.

Nuclear options

For those who believe our politics are dysfunctional, and compromised beyond repair, these initiatives propose a new start for California.

  • Decentralization:

Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox has a vision to blow up the Legislature. That is, he wants to increase the number of legislators from its current 120 to roughly 12,000 with each lawmaker representing 5,000 to 10,000 Californians. Cox, who has already submitted the required number of signatures for the measure, believes the “neighborhood legislature” would make representatives more accountable and less beholden to outside campaign cash. Still, this small army of lawmakers would vote for 80 assembly members and 40 state senators to send to Sacramento, thus obviating the need to convert the state capitol building into a football stadium.

Or if 12,000 subdivisions of the state is too many, how about three? Tim Draper, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist who unsuccessfully campaigned in 2014 to split California in six, is now pushing for a more modest three-state solution. Under the proposal, the state would be divided into Northern California, California, and Southern California.

  • Separation:

The 2018 election is rapidly approaching, but many California progressives are still recovering from 2016. Thus, two nascent initiatives that would push the state toward a clean break from the other 49 states. One proposalwould call for a Constitutional Convention where California would submit a legal pathway to possible independence. The other, a constitutional amendment backed by Bush-era anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, would declare the state’s intent to become an “autonomous nation.” It is unclear how likely it is that either measure will make it onto the ballot.

Money Measures

This is where lawmakers and interest groups come to the voter, hat in hand, asking permission to borrow a bit of extra money. Voters decide whether the new investment is worth the extra debt—though historically, voters have seen more benefit than cost. Since 1986, Californians have approved $9 in fresh borrowing for every $10 requested of them.

  • New money for green things:

Last fall, lawmakers passed a bill to put a $4 billion borrowing planon the ballot. If approved, the borrowed money will fund a variety of natural resource projects: building new parks in low income neighborhoods, remediating soil and wetlands around the Salton Sea, revamping aging dams and levees, and funding grants to adapt to climate change. Voters will review the plan in June.

Conservation groups are gathering signatures for a $8.9 billion initiative exclusively to improve and expand water infrastructure—from drinking water to flood management to ecosystem restoration.

  • New money for housing:

Remember the package of housing bills the Legislature narrowly passed at the end of last session? One major component was a $4 billion bond measure placed by the Legislature on the November ballot. Roughly $3 billion would be slated for new affordable housing construction and $1 billion for below-market home loans for veterans.

  • Also in the running…

Two more bond measures were submitted last month: One plan would borrow $1.5 billion to fund new buildings and other improvements at children’s hospitals. The other would borrow $2 billion to fund cleanup of mold, asbestos, and lead at homes and schools.

Patch Ups

Sometimes legislators need to tie up legislative loose ends or keep promises made to political allies. Here’s the place on your ballot where the sausage gets made.

  • Legislative sweeteners:

When Democrats sought to renew the state’s cap-and-trade program last summer, they needed the votes of a few moderate Republicans. Under cap and trade, the state restricts greenhouse gas emissions and auctions off the right to pollute. Democrats offered an assurance to the GOP holdouts by putting a new constitutional amendment on the ballot: Any cap-and-trade auction revenue raised after 2024 would require the approval of two-thirds of both the Assembly and Senate before it could be spent, making Republican involvement more likely. In June, voters will decide what that assurance is worth.

Second, the gas tax. Earlier last year, when Democrats raised the tax on gasoline along with other vehicle fees to pay for road and transit improvements, they also passed a ballot-bound constitutional amendment alongside it. If approved by the voters, it will create a budgetary “lockbox” for the new gas tax money that can be tapped only for transportation projects. Putting this measure on your June ballot was intended to inoculate the transportation bill against future political attack. It didn’t.

  • Constitutional tweaks:

Unless otherwise specified, if a ballot measure gets over 50 percent of the vote on election night, it becomes law the following morning. But what if a vote is too close to call? Or called incorrectly only to be changed after absentee ballots are counted? This amendmentreferred by the Legislature, also up in June, would delay the enactment of new voter-approved laws until five days after the Secretary of State has called the result.


For special interest groups, the California ballot is a second chance. If you failed to convince enough lawmakers to advance your agenda during the legislative session, why not try the voters? At the very least, mounting a credible initiative campaign is a good way to force your political adversaries to the bargaining table.

  • Another shot at health reform:

Last year the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers failed to convince lawmakers to pass two bills that would have placed new pricing and staffing requirements on the state’s for-profit dialysis clinics. While the union tries to revive those efforts, they’ve launched a measure that would require clinics to pay payers (namely, health insurance companies) back for any charge more than 115 percent of the statewide average cost of care. Note that this is all happening as the union tries to organize the state’s dialysis clinic technicians.

A bolder health initiative campaign proposes to set up a health care fund exempt from the spending caps and revenue sharing requirements that constrain other areas of the budget. Most budget experts argue that this is a necessary first step before the Legislature can pass a state-run, single-payer health insurance program—an effort that was put on hold in the Assembly last year.

  • Another shot at the labor code:

From the other side of the political spectrum, three similar initiative proposals—still in the early signature gathering stage—take aim at the Private Attorneys General Act. Ever since the law was enacted in 2004, giving workers the right to sue their employers on behalf of the state for alleged labor code violations, business interests have argued that it gives too much power to workers and their attorneys to sue over minor infractions. Last year, three bills to weaken the law failed to gain traction. Each circulating initiative would make it more challenging to bring cases and less profitable for the attorneys who bring them.

  • Another shot at housing:

For more than two decades, California cities have been barred from passing rent control ordinances—rules that restrict the ability of landlords to raise rents. The state’s ever-increasing cost of living has put pressure on lawmakers to change that. They resisted last year, but 2018 brings fresh opportunities—a new bill in the Legislature and a proposed ballot initiative that would repeal the ban on rent control.

New Rules

California is often caricatured as the state hogtied with red tape—often applied by voters at the polls. Here are a few possible new ones, along with one regulatory rollback.

  • For companies:

In case those 10,000-word Terms and Condition policies don’t offer you the assurance of privacy, this measure would give consumers the right to learn about the kind of personal data a company is gathering about them or selling to third-parties. It would also prevent companies from discriminating against those who ask, either by denying them equal service or charging higher prices.

Another proposed initiative from the Humane Society of the United States would tighten regulations on livestock treatment—requiring farmers to provide a certain amount of floor space for confined cows, pigs, and chickens.

  • For workers:

In 2016, the California Supreme Court held that security guards in California cannot be considered on-call when on breaktime. Last year some Democrats in the Assembly unsuccessfully attempted to a pass a law that would guarantee undisturbed rest and meal time for ambulance drivers and technicians too. Now the industry is punching back with a ballot measure that would explicitly exempt them.

Of course, there are more.

To date more than 60 measures have been submitted to the attorney general’s office. Beyond those listed above, they include proposals to loosen felony sentencing guidelines, tighten felony sentencing guidelines, repeal the California’s “sanctuary state” law, tax estates to fund college aid, pay public school teachers more, defund public schools, change the state’s voting rules for primaries, criminalize abortion, and decriminalize magic mushrooms.

Would-be reformers and repealers have until late April to get their signatures in order for the November ballot.

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City services slashed to fund pensions, but your taxes are still going up

PensionsIn the coming months and years, California voters can expect to see a variety of tax increases pop up on their local election ballots. They will be called “public safety” taxes to hire more police or firefighters or “parks” or “library” taxes to pay for those popular public services. But don’t be fooled. Any new tax proposal is in reality a “pension tax” designed to help the California Public Employees’ Retirement System make up for shortfalls in its investment strategy.

In fact, liberal interest groups are getting ready to circulate a statewide ballot initiative that will gut Proposition 13 – the 1978 initiative that has limited property tax increases to 1 percent of a property’s sales price. It also limits property tax increases to 2 percent a year. The new initiative would remove those protections from many commercial property owners, thus raising taxes by another $11 billion a year. Money is fungible, so this is partly about paying for pensions, too.

California has an enormous problem with pension costs. Many observers see it as a crisis that threatens the economic health of the state. A recent study from the well-respected Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, run by former Democratic Assemblyman Joe Nation, details how pension costs already are “crowding out” public services, especially at the local level. Cities pay so much for retired employees that they are cutting spending on everything else.

“California public pension plans are funded on the basis of policies and assumptions that can delay recognition of their true cost,” according to the report. Yet pension costs still are rising and “are certain to continue their rise over the next one to two decades, even under assumptions that critics regard as optimistic.” So they are cutting “core services, including higher education, social services, public assistance, welfare, recreation and libraries, health, public works, and in some cases, public safety.”

Aside from cutting public services and running up and hiding debt levels, there’s only one other way that localities can come up with the cash to pay for these overly generous pensions, especially as pension costs consume 15 percent or more of their general-fund revenue. They will raise taxes. Meanwhile, the state government has to backfill pension costs as well, which leads to constant pressure for legislators to promote additional state-level tax increases. It’s a “heads they win, tails you lose” situation, as Californians pay more to get less.

Much of the problem goes back to 1999, when the Legislature rammed through a law to provide 50-percent pension increases to the California Highway Patrol. Backers knew that once CHP received these overly generous deals (including retroactivity, which is a pure giveaway that hikes pensions back to each employee’s starting date), pension increases would spread across the state. Indeed, they did. CalPERS said it wouldn’t cost taxpayers a “dime” because of stock-market growth, but then the market crashed.

Under the current defined-benefit system, public employees are promised an irrevocable level of pension benefits based on a formula. For instance, most California “public safety” workers (police, fire, billboard inspectors, prison guards, etc.) receive “3 percent at 50.” If they work 30 years, they get 90 percent of their final three years’ pay (often higher, because of pension-spiking gimmicks) until they die. They can retire with full benefits at age 50. Non-safety workers often receive a pension formula that lets them retire with 81 percent of their final pay beginning at age 57. These are very generous benefits given their typically high final salaries.

CalPERS invests the money in the stock market. It calculates the “unfunded pension liabilities” (i.e., debt) based on a projected rate of return for their investments. Higher expectations enable the pension funds and cities to go along their merry way, not worrying about their ability to pay for all the promises and avoiding pressure to pare back pay levels. CalPERS just lowered its rate of return from 7.5 percent to 7 percent, which is still overly optimistic.

But the lowered assumed rates mean that cities have to pay the pension fund additional fees to cover the difference. This is cutting into their operating budgets. In fact, cities have faced four rate increases in the past five years and are expecting a fifth one. A recent article tells the stories of El Segundo and Arcadia, two Los Angeles County cities that are considering hiking their sales taxes to maintain their current level of service.

El Segundo’s mayor pro tem said that in five years “the payment to CalPERS is expected to be $18 million and 25 percent of general fund revenue as the employer rate for safety employees increases from 50 percent of pay to 80 percent of pay,” reported Calpensions’ Ed Mendel. He noted that cities face a statewide cap on the size of their sales tax, but that Gov. Jerry Brown in October signed a law that allows some localities to bust through that cap.

You can see what’s coming: A push by unions to eliminate the sales-tax cap across the state, and a torrent of sales tax increases to pay for soaring pension costs. The other thing to expect: Continuing efforts to hide the size of the pension debt.

“The nation’s largest pension system is expected to adopt a funding plan … that anticipates shortfalls during the next decade and then banks on exceptional investment returns over the following half century to make up the difference,” wrote Contra Costa Times columnist Dan Borenstein this week. “It’s an absurd strategy designed to placate labor unions, who want more public money available now for raises, and local government officials who are struggling to make annual installment payments on past debt CalPERS has rung up.”

The only other hope beyond debt and taxes is if the California Supreme Court guts the so-called California Rule, which forbids governments from reducing pension benefits even going forward unless they are provided with something of equal or greater value. That “rule” has made it nearly impossible to reduce costs for current employees. But there’s no guarantee the court will roll back the rule in a case it will soon consider –  or that the state and localities will bother to cut back benefit levels even if they are allowed to do so given union political power.

In the meantime, expect not only more of the same of hidden debt and reduced government services – but tax increases at every turn.

Steven Greenhut is a contributing editor for the California Policy Center. He is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at

This article was originally published by the California Policy Center

Prop. 13 targeted by proposed California ballot initiative

Forty years after Proposition 13 was approved by California voters, the issue of property-tax limits could be back on the state ballot in 2018.

A coalition of liberal groups is trying to qualify an initiative for the November ballot that would remove Prop. 13’s restrictions on reassessments and tax increases for corporate-owned property.

The backers say the initiative would keep Prop. 13’s protections for homeowners, residential renters, small businesses and farmers.

They say a projected $11 billion in new revenue from corporate property taxes would be used to provide needed funding for schools and community colleges as well as parks, libraries, health clinics, home-building, homeless services, roads and bridges.

But those promises haven’t kept low-tax advocates from slamming the would-be initiative, called the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act of 2018. …

Click here to read the full article from the OC Register

Trick or treat, your property tax bill is here

property taxWhich is scarier showing up in your mailbox — Halloween movies from Netflix or your property tax bill? For homeowners, even “The Exorcist” can’t compare in terms of pure fright as the annual envelop from the tax collector’s office. Fortunately, however, homeowners are still able to count on Proposition 13 for protection.

While progressives in the California Legislature continue to target the struggling middle class for ever higher taxes, they have been unable to break Proposition 13. That landmark 1978 initiative limits increases in a property’s assessed value to 2 percent annually and provides most property owners a good idea what their tax bill will be even before opening the envelope.

This predictability in taxation allows homeowners to budget for their taxes and provides assurance against a sudden increase that could result in losing their home to the tax collector. Whether you purchased your property last week, or 30 years ago, Proposition 13 is maintaining a reasonable limit on annual hikes in your property tax.

Still, homeowners need to examine their property tax bill carefully because mistakes can happen. Taxpayers should understand the various charges and make certain that they are not being assessed for more than they are legally obligated to pay. The best way to check a tax bill is to have your previous year’s bill handy for reference.

For most California counties, the property tax bill will show three categories of charges. They are the General Tax Levy, Voted Indebtedness and Direct Assessments. …

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

Dems want to raise property taxes to fund government pensions

Pension moneyI guess I should use the old vaudeville line: Stop me if you’ve heard this one: the push to increase commercial property taxes is about government pension costs. Returning to this subject at this time (I wrote on the same subject for the Sacramento Bee last April) is prompted by the coming together of a couple of recent events.

There was the League of Women Voters and other groups hosting a meeting in Los Angeles this past weekend to “educate” people and advocate for a split roll property tax seeking to raise billions of tax dollars on the back of businesses. Also last week, Stanford University’s Institute for Policy Research issued a report by professor and former Democratic legislator Joe Nation describing the pension burden that is beginning to strangle state and local governments in California.

The services that are affected by both the split roll rally and the Stanford report are quite similar.

Supporters of the split roll say that raising taxes on commercial property will provide $9 billion a year needed for schools and services provided by local governments. Meanwhile, Joe Nation’s report says that because of pension contributions by employers (i.e. governments) increasing an average of 400% over the past 15 years, educational services, recreation, community services and others are squeezed for lack of money.

Many “core mission services,” as defined by the Stanford report, will be starved of money because of pension demands. The split roll advocates talk about the need for more money for local services. What they don’t tell you is that money for those services is being diverted to cover the pension requirements of state and local governments because these governments made generous promises to workers and accepted revenue projections to cover those promises that did not play out.

Instead of admitting that more money is needed to cover pension costs, split roll advocates create a false argument about business dodging its fair share of property taxes. They claim homeowners now pay a much larger share of the property tax burden than they did prior to Proposition 13. A Legislative Analyst’s Office report undercuts that false claim.

The report states in part, “Homeowners pay a slightly larger share of property taxes today than they did when Proposition 13 passed. Proposition 13 does not appear to have caused this increase. … In part, this may be due to faster growth in the number of residential properties than the number of commercial and industrial properties.”

The so-called grassroots activity seeking support for a split roll is backed by powerful public employee unions who support more revenues to cover the pension costs. Yet, you won’t hear anything from the split roll advocates about the pensions strangling local budgets or pushing some cities toward bankruptcies.

Meanwhile, the Stanford study makes it clear with numerous examples that pensions are absorbing greater and greater portions of local government budgets. The Stanford study states clearly there is “agreement on one fact: public pension costs are making it harder to provide services that have traditionally been considered part of government’s core mission.”

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Prop. 13 Revolution — A Far Cry From Reality

property tax“Voters May Reconsider Prop 13,” reads part of the headline on the press release about the new Hoover Institution Golden State Poll. However, read the poll and you’ll see we are nowhere near a Proposition 13 revolution.

The headline is based on a test of the “split roll” approach to property taxes in which commercial property would be assessed more frequently than residential property. When 1700 California adults were asked if they supported the split roll, 39% strongly or somewhat supported the concept, 33% strongly or somewhat opposed the idea.

Most political observers will tell you if an issue doesn’t garner around 60% in early polling it has little chance of passing especially when facing the gauntlet of a political campaign. The Hoover Institution’s finding of 39% means proponents of a split roll campaign have a huge mountain to climb — and they would be climbing it with opposition boulders rolling down the mountain at them.

A multi-million dollar opposition campaign would raise arguments those who responded to the poll were not advised of before replying to the poll question.

The idea that taxes levied on business would not somehow be passed on to consumers or would reduce jobs and effect the economy was not stated.

The information supplied to respondents argued that passing a split roll would lessen the need for more taxes on individuals, hardly a convincing argument when tax hungry lawmakers have their hands out on both the state and local levels.

Stating that business would pay more taxes and individuals would not — in other words, voters were asked if they were willing to raise taxes on someone else– is an argument that has proved effective in recent state tax increase campaigns. Yet, the split roll question still got only 39% support in the poll.

Looking closer at the results, those strongly supporting the split roll concept stood at 13%, strongly opposed was a larger 20%. There is room to move voters who were unsure or did not have strong convictions on the issue.

In an article in Hoover’s Eureka publication that accompanied the poll, it was argued that a key to reformers winning the day is to convince renters to support the split roll and vote. But a lot of that strategy would depend on how apartments are treated under a split roll tax. Are they residential property that will continue under Prop 13 protections or are they commercial property, which under a split roll would be reassessed every year with the tax increase passed on to tenants?

I suppose if you raise most issues you would find about a third of the voters willing to consider change. In fact, a Reuters/Ipsos poll a few months ago found one out of three Californians supported the Golden State seceding from the Union.

Neither a Calexit nor a Prop 13 revolution is close to reality.

Joel Fox is Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

If taxpayers are ‘cheap,’ it’s because they aren’t stupid

tax signCalifornia’s already overburdened taxpayers are, once again, being blamed for being the problem, now that Gov. Jerry Brown has labeled those who object to his new $5.2 billion gas and car tax as “freeloaders.”

Taxpayers have become accustomed to being insulted by those who want more of their money. A few years back, Barbara Kerr, then-president of the California Teachers Association, said taxpayers who opposed new taxes were “cheap.” This was the same view echoed by high-tech billionaires who financed the successful effort to make it easier to impose new property taxes to pay for school bonds. (It should be noted that billionaires are often insensitive to new taxes that mean little to them, but which can require a significant sacrifice to average California families.)

Californians are already struggling with a heavy tax burden. We rank first in state sales tax and marginal income tax rates and, when adding in the carbon tax, our gas tax is already the highest — and it is about to go much higher. Even with Proposition 13, the per capita property tax burden in the state ranks in the top 20.

It should come as no surprise that average folks find these new taxes onerous, taxes that, conservatively, could cost them and their families many hundreds of dollars a year. Adding insult to injury, much of the new revenue will go to accommodate bicycles and for mass transit, perhaps even the governor’s pet bullet train. This, of course, represents the political elites’ refusal to recognize that, for most people, biking to work, even with bike lanes that crowd out motorists, is not practical. They are equally out of touch when supporting spending close to a hundred billion dollars on a bullet train that will help few, if any, get to work or do their shopping.

In Sacramento, they have no trouble coming up with millions of dollars to pay legal bills for illegal immigrants, billions for the train and gold-plated compensation for bureaucrats. But, somehow, we can’t get our roads fixed unless taxpayers come up with additional bribe money in the form of new taxes.

But wait, there’s more, as they say on those late-night TV commercials. When gas taxes were last raised in 1990, the Sacramento politicians promised the new revenue would be a panacea for all our transportation woes. But spend it all on fixing roads and bridges they did not. When, after a decade of overspending, the state found itself in the red during a declining economy, gas tax money was pilfered for other Sacramento priorities, priorities that did not include new highways or road maintenance. Even after voters approved two separate ballot measures to force lawmakers to spend the billions of dollars in annual revenue on the roads, the state found a way around these mandates, even going so far as to changing the definition of the gas tax so that it would be exempt from the voter-approved requirements.

Well, the governor, and the rest of the Sacramento gang that approved the new gas tax, can call taxpayers “cheap” and “freeloaders” if they want, but they can’t call us stupid. We see exactly what is going on.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This piece was originally published by at

Proposition 13 is the original victim of ‘fake news’

prop 13As Proposition 13 approaches its 39th birthday, it is still subject to the same dishonest attacks in the media that were used against it when it was on the ballot in 1978. Proposition 13 was one of the first victims of “fake news.”

“The bigwigs in labor and business went all out to defeat 13,” said its principle author, Howard Jarvis. “They tried to outdo one another in issuing doomsday prophecies about what passage of 13 would mean.” The media slavishly supported the exaggerated and dishonest claims, often endorsing them through editorials and by giving prominent placement to negative stories on the tax revolt.

The politicians, including Gov. Jerry Brown, and government agencies from top to bottom weighed in. Here is a typical example: Before the election, Alameda County Transit told the public that passage of Prop. 13 would result in the termination of 80 percent of its 2,000 employees. Two months later, the Fremont-Newark Argus reported on the aftermath of the passage of Proposition 13, “To date, no one in the district has been laid off and officials now believe there will be no massive layoffs.” The paper added that three local fire districts that anticipated losing one-half to three-fourths of its staff, had not lost a single firefighter to Prop. 13.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Sen. Hertzberg Targets Homeowners With Higher Water and Sewer Rates

Storm_DrainIt’s no secret that tax-and-spend interests have hated Proposition 13 since its adoption by the voters in 1978. Immediately after passage, Prop. 13 was the target of numerous lawsuits and legislative proposals seeking to create loopholes that would allow government to grab more tax dollars from California citizens.

These constant attacks compelled taxpayer advocates to go back to the voters with multiple initiatives to preserve the letter and spirit of Prop. 13. These included Prop. 62 in 1986 (voter approval for local taxes); Prop. 218 (closing loopholes for local fees and so-called “benefit assessments”); and Prop. 26 (requiring “fees” to have some nexus to the benefits conferred on the fee payers).

However, the latest tax-grabber to treat homeowners as ATMs is state Senator Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys. If he gets his way, Californians will be spending a lot more on water and sewer service. He seeks to do away with the critical “cost of service” requirements for water rates as well as treat “stormwater runoff” (the rain that runs down street gutters) the same as “sewer service,” opening the door to virtually unlimited — and unvoted — sewer rates.

To read the entire column, please click here.