Tax Hike Drives Millionaires Away From California

leaving-californiaAccording to new research released by Charles Varner, associate director of the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, California lost an estimated 138 high-income individuals following passage of the Proposition 30 income tax increase championed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and approved by Golden State voters in 2012.

This new research by Varner updates a previous paper released six years ago that looked at domestic migration to and from California following a 2004 income tax hike.

“One reason we wanted to update our previous paper is that this tax change in 2012 is the largest state tax change that we have seen in the U.S. for the last three decades,” Varner said.

Prop. 30 raised the state’s top income tax rate by more than 29%, increasing it three percentage points from 10.3% to 13.3%, which is now the highest state income tax rate in the nation. Prop. 30 also hiked the tax rate on income between $300,000 and $500,000 by two percentage points (a 21.5% rate increase), and raised the rate on income between $500,000 and $1,000,000 by three percentage points (a more than 32% rate hike).

In 2016, California voters extended the Prop. 30 income tax increases, which were originally scheduled to expire in 2019, until 2030. There will be an effort to extend those income tax hikes yet again prior to their expiration in 2030; book it now.

Varner’s new research examined taxpayers who were and were not hit by the Prop. 30 rate hikes. He found that in the two years before the Prop. 30 tax hike was imposed (2011 and 2012), net in-migration for both groups “was positive and roughly constant.” Yet following 2012 and the passage of Prop. 30, net in-migration dropped for households that were facing an effective tax increase of 0.5 percent or more. The reduction was greatest for households facing the highest effective tax hike, according to Varner and his coauthors.

This isn’t surprising for those who are familiar with other attempts to soak the rich with punitive state income tax hikes on high earners. Take what happened in Maryland after Martin O’Malley, the former Democratic presidential candidate and governor, imposed a millionaires tax hike a decade ago. …

Click here to read the full article from Forbes.com

Patrick Gleason is vice president of state affairs at Americans for Tax Reform, and a senior fellow at the Beacon Center of Tennessee. Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PatrickMGleason

Taxpayer Victories in an Anti-Taxpayer California Legislature

CA-legislatureRonald Reagan once said, “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” With a record $130 billion budget, we know that California state legislators are adept at all three practices, but none more so than taxes.

Democrats in Sacramento spent 2017 jamming three separate tax and fuel-cost hikes into law. They renewed the cap-and-trade program, continuing a multi-billion-dollar increase in fuel costs that brings in state revenue to fund high-speed rail. They invented a new tax on recorded documents that is supposed to fund affordable housing. And of course the SB 1 gas and car tax increase was said to be needed to fund road repair, even though billions of dollars have been diverted away from maintenance over the last decade. In the midst of an $8 billion surplus, Sacramento was steadily increasing taxes.

But fortunately, 2018 hasn’t been as dreadful for taxpayers as 2017. Here’s a sample of the proposals that, for now, have failed to pass:

Senate Bill 794 would impose a new three percent tax on fireworks at the point of sale. The abuse of illegal fireworks is a matter of statewide concern, and as such, it is totally appropriate to spend existing General Fund revenues on enforcement and safety. Instead, by taxing the sale of fireworks, Sacramento would be hurting all the non-profit organizations that raise a sizable share of their annual revenue from firework stands.

Assembly Bill 2497 would impose an as-yet-undefined tax on guns and ammunition to fund school resource counselors and police officers.

AB 2303 and AB 2560 would create a new tax of up to ten percent on small business vendors who contract out either with private prisons or with the California Department of Corrections.

Senate Bill 623 would establish a precedent-setting tax on residential water use. For now, local water agencies have joined with taxpayer advocates to vigorously fight this levy.

Assembly Bill 2486 would impose a $100 million tax on opioid manufacturers and distributors to fund prevention and treatment programs. Ultimately, this tax will be passed onto consumers, especially to patients who use opioids appropriately to manage pain. As an issue of statewide concern as well as a legitimate public health issue, opioid treatment should also be financed out of the General Fund. …

Click here to read the full article from the Riverside Press-Enterprise

California bans local soda taxes until 2031

SodaA new push by the beverage industry is slowing the expansion of soda taxes in California and elsewhere.

California cities pioneered soda taxes as a way to combat obesity, diabetes and heart disease, but the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday bowed to pressure from beverage companies and reluctantly banned local taxes on soda for the next 12 years.

It follows similar bans recently passed in Arizona and Michigan. Voters in Oregon will decide on a statewide ban in November. The American Beverage Association, which represents Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and others, has backed the moves after several cities passed taxes on sugary drinks in recent years.

California’s ban is part of a last-minute maneuver to block a beverage industry-backed ballot measure that would make it much harder for cities and counties to raise taxes of any kind. The ABA said in a statement the legislation is about keeping groceries, including drinks, affordable.

Lawmakers approved the proposal despite deep reluctance. …

Click here to read the full article from ABC7 News

Gas Tax Repeal is Now Officially on the November Ballot

Gas TaxSetting the stage for a major statewide battle over how to pay for an estimated $67 billion backlog in highway, bridge and road repairs, a ballot measure to repeal California’s recently enacted gas taxes and registration fees officially qualified Monday for the November ballot.

Already, Gov. Jerry Brown and a powerful coalition of chambers of commerce, law enforcement, unions, firefighters, local transportation agencies and cities and counties have vowed to fight it.

“I will do everything in my power to defeat any repeal effort,” Brown said in a statement shortly after the Secretary of State’s Office announced the effort had qualified for the ballot. “You can count on that.”

John Cox, the Republican candidate for governor, didn’t waste any time, either, to voice his support for the repeal. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Jose Mercury News

After all these years, liberals are still wrong about Proposition 13

Howard-JarvisForty years ago this week, California voters began the modern tax revolt movement that spread across America like wildfire. The idea that citizens could take back control from an overreaching government helped to propel Ronald Reagan to the presidency. Reagan, who had a close friendship with Howard Jarvis, took his message of limited government to Washington and his message of freedom to the world.

Proposition 13 cut property taxes, put limits on their rise, and toughened the requirements for passing other tax increases. It passed overwhelmingly in June 1978, and ever since, liberals have failed to acknowledge how wrong they were about it — both in terms of politics and policy.

Two months before the vote, California’s then Gov. Jerry Brown (version 1.0), was quoted in the New York Times as saying “I don’t think there is one credible observer who thinks Proposition 13 will endure over the long period.” Forty years later, it’s Brown who is heading into the political sunset while Proposition 13 continues to protect grateful California taxpayers.

So-called “experts” were also wrong in their dire predictions about the harm that would be inflicted on California if Prop. 13 were to pass. One of the TV commercials run by the well-funded opposition campaign featured a doom-saying UCLA economist who predicted that California would be plunged into a deep recession if voters approved the measure. But in the years immediately following passage, California had an extraordinarily booming economy.

Progressives like to perpetuate another falsehood about Prop. 13 in their ceaseless efforts to divide and conquer the taxpayer coalition that supports the law. They seek to target the owners of business properties who, like homeowners, benefit from predictable taxes under Prop. 13. A false argument is advanced that during the 1978 campaign, voters weren’t told that Proposition 13 protections would be extended to business properties as well as homes.

This simply isn’t true.  The opponents of Prop. 13 themselves repeated that fact throughout the campaign and, specifically, in the official ballot pamphlet.

Perhaps the granddaddy of all lies about Proposition 13 is how it “destroyed education” in California. This falsehood is repeated so often and with such vigor that it is accepted as established fact by liberal elites and mainstream media. For example, just a couple of weeks ago, Sacramento mayor and former Senate leader Darrell Steinberg blamed Prop. 13 for “years of cutbacks to arts funding in public schools.” This despite record revenues being pumped into education. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Daily News

Tax break for undocumented immigrants pushed by California Democrats

The California state budget could extend a tax break to low-income families of undocumented immigrants.

Assembly Democrats want Gov. Jerry Brown to expand the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit in such a way that people who do not have Social Security numbers can apply for it.

The proposal is meant to help poor Californians recover some of their state income tax. Last year, a household with two children and an adjusted gross income of up to $22,309 would have been eligible for a tax credit. The maximum credit for a family of that size is $2,467, according to the Franchise Tax Board.

The Assembly plan would expand eligibility to people with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers. They’re tax-processing numbers the IRS uses to collect tax from people who do not have Social Security numbers. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Local Officials Avoid Pension Discussion as They Push New Taxes

TaxesWhile public and media attention to this week’s primary election focused – understandably so – on contests for governor, U.S. senator and a handful of congressional seats, there were other important issues on Californians’ ballots.

One, which received scant attention at best, was another flurry of local government and school tax and bond proposals.

The California Taxpayers Association counted 98 proposals to raise local taxes directly, or indirectly through issuance of bonds that would require higher property taxes to repay.

The proposed taxes on legal marijuana sales and other retail sales and “parcel taxes” on pieces of real estate were particularly noteworthy for how they were presented to voters.

Most followed the playbook that highly paid strategists peddle to local officials, advising them to promise improvements in popular services, such as police and fire protection and parks, and avoid any mention of the most important factor in deteriorating fiscal circumstances – the soaring cost of public employee pensions.

City, county and school district officials howl constantly, albeit mostly in private, that ever-increasing, mandatory payments to the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) are driving some entities to the brink of insolvency.

However, those officials are just as consistently unwilling to tell their voters that pension costs are the basic underlying factor in their requests for tax increases.

Why?

Tying tax increases to pensions, rather than popular services, not only would make voters less likely to vote for them but make public employee unions less willing to pony up campaign funds to sell the tax increases to voters. It is, in effect, a conspiracy of silence.

This week’s local tax and bond measures are just a tuneup for what will likely be a much larger batch on the November ballot.

It’s a well-established axiom of California politics that low-turnout elections, such as a non-presidential primary in June, are not as friendly to tax proposals as higher-turnout general elections, such as the one in November. Primaries tend to draw more older white voters who often shun taxes, while general elections have younger and more ethnically diverse electorates more attuned to taxes.

As local officials make plans to place those proposals on the November ballot, a bill making its way through the Legislature could skew local tax politics even more.

Senate Bill 958 would allow one school district, Davis Unified, to exempt its own employees from paying the $620 per year parcel tax that its voters approved two years ago.

The Senate approved SB 958 on a 24-19 vote last month, sending it to the Assembly. It’s being carried by Sen. Bill Dodd, a Napa Democrat whose district includes Davis.

The bill’s rationale is that housing is so expensive in Davis that teachers and other school employees cannot afford to live there, and that exempting them from the parcel tax would, at least in theory, make housing more affordable.

However, if SB 958 becomes law, it would set a dangerous precedent. It doesn’t take much imagination to see local government and school unions throughout the state demanding similar exemptions from new taxes with the threat, explicit or implicit, that they would refuse to finance tax measure campaigns.

The very people who benefit most from additional taxes by receiving higher salaries and/or better fringe benefits thus would be able to avoid paying those taxes themselves.

Where would it end?

olumnist for CALmatters

California Tax Collection Spikes as Rich Pre-Pay State Taxes

Money

California’s tax revenues are up sharply as the rich pre-pay 2017 income taxes before the Trump tax cut starts limiting the amount of state and local taxes the wealthy can deduct.

Breitbart News recently reported that California state tax collection for the first three months of 2018 was up by a surprising $3.3 billion over the Department of Finance forecast. Legislative Analyst’s Office economist Justin Garosi told the San Francisco Chronicle that the strong trend may have strengthened in the first 20 days of April, the biggest tax collection month each year, with personal and corporate income tax collection up $700 million over forecast and up about $1 billion over last year.

That is all great news for California, whose Standard & Poor’s credit rating was slashed to a near “junk bond” BBB at the height of the Great Recession in 2009. The combination of an economic recovery and a huge Sacramento across-the-board tax increase pushed California’s solvency rate back to AA by 2014. If the current tax boom continues, California could garner the prestigious AAA investment grade by 2020.

But Garosi warned the Chronicle that the euphoric tax spike has been driven by sharp-eyed accountants advising their highest income customers to game the transition period for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act by pre-paying state income taxes before the new federal so-called state and local tax (SALT) deductions are limited to $10,000 in tax year 2018.

Breitbart News reported that the State Franchise Tax Board estimates that the approximately 61,000 California households that declare over $1 million of taxable income each year stand to pay another $9 billion in federal taxes beginning in 2018. Another about 150,000 state households mostly making over $200,000 will pay another $3 billion.

For the state’s fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018, cash receipts are about $6 billion over the Department of Finance’s budget plan, which will not be updated until Governor Jerry Brown’s mid-June budget revision report.

Only 13.8 percent of California taxpayers elect to use itemized deductions that can be impacted by the SALT cap. But those higher income earners deduct an average of $18,438, which means about a $3,200 average federal tax increase. Moreover, some very high-income earners could pay millions of dollars more in federal taxes.

California progressives fear that those sharp-eyed accountants are now telling their richest clients that the best way to benefit from the Trump tax cut is to “vote with their feet” and move their official residences to states like Arizona, Nevada, and Texas, which have dramatically lower tax rate burdens and much more business-friendly regulatory structures.

That trend may already be happening. A CNBC analysis found that from 2016 to 2017, California saw a net 138,000 people leave the state, while Texas grew by 79,000 people, Arizona added 63,000 residents, and Nevada saw a 38,000 gain.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Time to Re-Think the California Tax Structure?

TaxesIncome taxes are due today, which should give us pause to think about the state’s rickety tax structure built on a narrow foundation of a few high end taxpayers. ForgetAboutIt! Hardly anyone seems to care, not while the current tax system is raining dollars into the state treasury like manna from heaven.

The latest figures from State Controller Betty Yee’s office show nearly $62 billion has been collected in personal income tax through March with the biggest hit yet to be calculated through the month of April. The March figure was already 3.1% more than anticipated by Governor Brown’s budget, and the overall collection of personal income taxes is over $7 billion ahead of last year’s collection on the same date at the end of last week.

The personal income tax last year provided nearly 68% of all General Fund revenues, with the top 1% of the state’s taxpayers providing about 50% of those funds.

With the help of a tax increase on those high end taxpayers Gov. Brown helped drive through at the ballot, he has seen a 45% increase in the state budget since he took office with this year’s budget enjoying billions in reserves and surplus.

In such an intoxicating fiscal environment, who wants to try to rearrange the feathers on the Golden Goose?

But that is something that needs consideration. Relying on high-income taxpayers to anchor the state budget comes with both the potential for dramatic revenue growth that the state has witnessed in recent years, but also the volatility of depending on this group of big earners. In down economic times, the state budget takes a dive.

Controller Yee authorized a council of advisors to study the problem of reforming the tax system and they produced a document in June 2016 titled Comprehensive Tax Reform in California, A Contextual Framework. The first criticism of the current tax system Yee’s advisors highlighted was volatility brought on because the state relies so heavily on high-end personal income taxpayers who take a big hit during economic downturns.

As I have noted previously: Many interests are comfortable with what they’ve got with the current system and don’t want to change. Voters tend not to like tinkering with the tax system they know, fearing what they might face with a new tax structure. When times are relatively good, no one wants to make drastic changes. All this adds up to inertia on tax reform efforts while waiting for the next economic downturn that provides proof that the tax structure is not working well.

So we merrily roll along during these flush times. Gov. Brown has warned what will happen when the next recession hits California hard. While he has put money into rainy day reserves to counter the negative effects on the budget, a hard downturn would still likely put the state’s budget underwater.

Brown will say, “I told you so,” yet he didn’t spend any political capitol to try to re-do the tax system. No question, it will take a Herculean effort and may only be forced on a governor and legislature during a time of crisis, much as the current tax structure was created during the Great Depression.

In the meantime, the state officials and interest groups will fight about how to spend all that manna.

ditor and co-publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Enemies of Prop. 13 Delay Attack on Iconic Initiative

property taxA reporter for the Bay Area News Group stopped by the government office in Santa Clara County and concluded that while people standing in line to pay their property taxes were upset with the heavy burden, they had scant knowledge of California’s iconic Proposition 13. What most were probably unaware of is that their taxes would be at least twice as high without Prop. 13.

Many people who live in California today were not here in 1978 when Proposition 13 was passed overwhelmingly by voters. Today’s younger homeowners have little idea how frightened and angry citizens were in the mid-1970s when their property taxes doubled or even tripled from the previous year.  Homeowners were literally being taxed out of their homes.

But despite having no personal memory of the pre-Prop. 13 era, most Californians have at least heard of Proposition 13 and, when prodded, recall it somehow helps to keep escalating property taxes in check.

In June, Proposition 13 will hit its 40th birthday. While long-time homeowners will surely celebrate, those in government with an insatiable appetite for taxpayer dollars are hoping that voters will be ready to weaken it.  But previous attacks on Proposition 13 have come up short. At most, Prop. 13 was weakened by court decisions involving fees and charges as well as attacks on the two-thirds vote requirements.  But those attacks were quickly countered by subsequent ballot initiatives such as Proposition 218 in 1996, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, which reinforced Prop. 13’s original intent.

Knowing that a direct attack on Proposition 13’s protections for homeowners is a fool’s errand, the tax-and-spend interests have focused on raising property taxes on business property. This so-called “split roll” effort has gone on for about 30 years and has never really gained any serious traction. According to these interests, 2018 was going to be the year where they would finally be able to take a big chunk out of Prop. 13 by hitting commercial real estate with several billion dollars in higher taxes.

The optimism displayed by Proposition 13’s detractors has been based in large part on the expected “blue wave” of voters coming out in support of progressive candidates. Liberal Democrats believe, rightly or wrongly, that voter disgust with the Trump administration might at least allow them to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives. The thinking, at least until recently, has been that November of 2018 would be the right moment to fracture the pro-Proposition 13 alliance because of an energized progressive base, low voter turnout and fading memories of 1978.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot box. After beginning a serious effort to collect signatures for their “split roll” initiative, the proponents have taken their foot off the gas and announced that, instead, they will attempt to qualify the measure for the 2020 ballot. The ostensible reason for the delay is that it would give them more time to expand their coalition (of course, the same can be said for Prop. 13 defenders) and that the voter turnout model in 2020 would be better for them – a dubious claim indeed.

Split-roll proponents might be having second thoughts about what they thought was a weakening of support for Prop. 13 or the political strength of their own coalition. Perhaps they’ve seen polling – both private and public – revealing Proposition 13’s continued popularity. Whatever the reason, this November’s election will not present a direct threat to Proposition 13. …

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