Voters face hundreds of local tax measures

California voters have seen a deluge of local government tax and bond measures in recent elections and will face even more this year.

The California Taxpayers Association has counted 231 local sales and parcel tax increases and bond issues (which automatically increase property taxes if approved) on the March 3 primary ballot alone.

Hundreds more are headed for the November ballot as local officials capitalize on the higher voter turnouts of a presidential election year.

Turnout in March will be very lopsided in favor of Democrats due to the state’s increased role in choosing a presidential nominee of their party and November’s turnout also will be heavily Democratic, given the unpopularity of President Donald Trump.

Democrats are generally more willing to increase taxes than Republican or no-party-preference voters, so it makes perfect political sense to load up this year’s ballots with taxes.

Do cities, counties and school districts really need all of the new taxes they want voters to approve, given the strong increases in revenues from existing taxes they’ve enjoyed during nearly a decade-long economic boom?

Oddly enough, many do, because their costs, particularly for pensions and health care, have been rising faster than revenues — but don’t expect local officials to acknowledge those costs as they make their pitches to voters.

They will vaguely tell voters that the additional funds are needed for “public safety” or such popular services as parks.

Why the deception? They fear voters will be less willing to vote for new taxes if they are told the money would be spent on retirement costs, and they know their unions are less willing to finance candid campaigns.

The pending measures do comply, at least sketchily, with a recent state law that local officials dislike, requiring them to declare in their ballot summaries the tax effects of their proposals.

Last year, the Legislature voted to partially repeal that law, but Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed the measure.

“I am concerned that this bill as crafted will reduce transparency for local tax and bond measures,” Newsom wrote in his veto message.

Yes, the measure would reduce transparency, and that was the whole point. Its author, Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, publicly declared his concern that telling voters how much their tax burdens would increase might discourage them from approving local tax measures.

At least one March tax measure also regenerates a simmering dispute over the vote margins needed to raise taxes for specific purposes.

Long-standing state law says that general purpose local taxes require only simple majority voter approval, but those for specific purposes take two-thirds votes.

A few years ago, the state Supreme Court indirectly hinted that special purpose taxes placed on the ballot by initiative petition might require only simple majority approval. Since then, local judges have both affirmed the two-thirds requirement and ruled that simple majorities are sufficient, creating a legal conflict that only the Supreme Court can resolve.

Overarching the battles over local taxes is whether the high Democratic turnouts this year will also favor a statewide measure to modify the iconic Proposition 13 property tax limit, enacted in 1978, and thus allow increased taxes on commercial property.

At the moment, polls indicate that it’s a tossup, but that’s before public employee unions and commercial property owners spend tens of millions of dollars to sway voters one way or the other.

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

Comments

  1. “Long-standing state law says that general purpose (blank check) local taxes require only simple majority voter approval, but those for specific purposes take two-thirds votes” General Purpose taxes should require 2/3 as well. Even with “specific purpose” it is too easy to lie & divert. Train to nowhere?

    Just vote NO to everything that wants more money. No more “handful of gimme and a mouth full of much obliged”

    AND, the problem with Prop 13 is that it was sold dishonestly, and you give them commercial they’ll take residential in time.

  2. Before deciding on any tax or bond issue voters need to understand they are both increases in their taxes, land use, destruction on property protection and a grab for money to use in ways not presented in the bond or tax information presented to the public. It is a CYA for politicians and special interests to cover their flawed laws and misrepresentations to the public – an increasingly used strategy throughout the country. Our National, State and Local governments are now deeply in depth because they do not want to be the “bad” people. Tough Love is needed!!

  3. The Prop 13 on the March ballot is about a $25B school construction bond that should be voted down because of all the other “goodies” tucked inside of it. The Prop 13 Split-Roll tax is on the November ballot.

    Look closely at local school district parcel tax measures on the March ballot. My city and two others in our county all have similar measures that are real lulus. In my city tax it is for $35M in construction bonds and is $0.06 cent per $100 of ASSESSED VALUE (promoted as only $60.00 per $100,000 valuation.) Three problems. 1) how many parcels are valued at only $100,000? Try and find a house assessed at less than $250,000 (or an actual parcel tax of $150.00); 2) As, per current Prop 13, annual assessments are increased by 1% so there is an automatic escalator clause in the VALUE of the parcel tax; and 3) there is no time limit on the tax (estimated in the small print as 2054-2055) whenever the $35M in bonds is paid off.

  4. Democrates running California are THE SCUM OF THE EARTH. They are liars and voters will be sending a lot of this scum packing in 2020. The most corrupt but of people.

    • While I appreciate your sentiment, the voters are the ones that created the Democratic majority and continue to approve tax and bond issues. California must hit bottom before the voters wake up.

  5. “….and November’s turnout also will be heavily Democratic, given the unpopularity of President Donald Trump.”
    In the Peoples Republic of California, possibly, given that the populist incumbent is a globalist-hostile nationalist, a pro free-market capitalist, and a John Locke libertarian. All these virtues are repugnant to progressive socialist parasites in office who assume they know best for all, and intend on acting so whether wanted or not by any. IMHO

  6. You can talk ’til you’re blue in the face. But what will you actually do?

    #AB195 #HonestBallots Election Contest (Division 16 of the Elections Code)

    One voter with the will is all that’s needed.

    No organization will ever do it for you.

  7. Californians who believe in the constitution, freedom and not relying on the government have two choices, put up with the bullshit in this state or leave. The state is run by unions and public employees and nothing will change until they suck up all the money from the tax paying citizens.

    Once all of the ordinary Joe taxpayers are gone, the blood sucking government will be forcing big companies like Google, Facebook, Apple etc (who do not pay taxes today even though they make billions of dollars) to pay big, and eventually they’ll leave too. Then all the wonderful people in the unions and public employee will wake up, but it’ll be too late.

    California government is growing so quickly that they have to keep taxing and taxing. In reality, California government can be cut by 50%, yet Gavin Newsom’s new 2020 budget makes California government even bigger (according to the Sacramento Bee).

    California voters will never wake up because a huge percentage of them are on the government doll. Between the pensions, public employees huge pay and benefits, welfare, food stamps, low income housing, free education and free healthcare for illegals will ensure no good things are coming in the future for the taxpayers in the once ‘Golden’ State.

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