Opposition to Proposition 13 and to taxpayers’ interests in general comes primarily from three sources.
Politicians whose political power is based on providing transfer payments (transferring money from taxpayers to tax receivers) to their constituents.
Government-employee unions who see additional revenue as an opportunity to press for enhanced wages and benefits.
Wealthy and superwealthy political dilettantes who see new taxes as a way to compel others to fund programs that are a part of their vision for society.
At the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association we are often asked for a list of those politicians who oppose Proposition 13. Politicians are usually too wily to come right out and say they oppose Proposition 13. They can read polls and they know that the tax-limiting measure is still overwhelmingly popular with average Californians.
Often a politician will phrase their opposition to Proposition 13 indirectly. For example, they will say they support it, but that the two-thirds vote for tax increases — one of its most important protections — should be changed in the name of democratic fairness. Others may say they back Proposition 13 but it’s not fair that some owners of similar homes pay different amounts. On questioning, taxpayers usually find that these politicians’ idea of fairness is to raise everyone’s taxes to the same higher level. Usually office holders will describe their proposed changes to Proposition 13 as mere “tweaking” when, in fact, their actual goal is to gut it. These are the same folks who can be heard to say, “I hate to raise taxes, but…”
Taxpayers find the best way to gauge a lawmaker’s levels of commitment to Proposition 13 and the well-being of taxpayers is to ignore what they say and look at their voting record.
Annually, HJTA evaluates legislators’ voting records and publishes the Legislative Report Card. The latest Report Card is available by clicking here. Those lawmakers not receiving at least a “B” rating are unworthy of the taxpayers’ confidence. Those receiving a “B,” but not an “A,” are on the edge and should be carefully watched and encouraged to take more taxpayer-friendly positions on the issues.
An additional tool for evaluating lawmakers is to see who is introducing anti-taxpayer legislation. For a look at the most dangerous bills currently in the Legislature click here.
While most government workers may be dedicated, the unions that represent them are interested in only one thing: More money for their members.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, California has the highest paid public employees in the nation. Still, it is never enough as far as the union leaders are concerned. For this reason, taxpayers find that these public-employee unions are usually in the forefront in promoting new taxes and damaging modifications to Proposition 13.
In 2004 it was these government unions that put Proposition 56 on the ballot. Proposition 56 would have reduced Proposition 13’s requirement that new state taxes receive a two-thirds vote of the Legislature for approval.
Fortunately for taxpayers and the economy of California, in a hard-fought campaign taxpayers defeated Proposition 56 at the polls.
One of the standout unions in the effort to undermine taxpayer protections has been the California Teachers Association (CTA). Twice in a recent two-year period the union collected signatures in an effort to qualify ballot measures to increase property taxes, although each time, for various reasons, they failed to submit the signatures they gathered.
Then CTA president, Barbara Kerr, was quoted as calling taxpayers who oppose new levies, “cheap.” To government-employee union leaders, taxpayers are a limitless source of money.
Union efforts are now under way to make higher sales tax rates permanent and to do away with Proposition 13’s requirement of a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to approve new or higher state taxes.
WEALTHY POLITICAL DILETTANTES
Wealthy and superwealthy political dilettantes have become a real menace to taxpayers in recent years. These public policy “dabblers,” whose only expertise is their checkbook, use the initiative process to try to force others to pay for implementing their expensive vision for society.
Right now, the two most prominent political dilettantes are the wealthy actor/director Rob “Meathead” Reiner and the superwealthy Reed Hastings, whose company Netflix rents DVDs over the Internet.
In many ways it is the dilettantes who pose the most severe threat to taxpayers because they swaddle their tax increase schemes with rhetoric about how their efforts are all for the children — or other sympathetic cause. They do their best to put those who have reservations about opening their wallets for programs of doubtful value, in a position of appearing to be anti-children — or whatever else in on the agenda. In this way the backers of these new taxes suppress meaningful debate while their bulging wallets buy the misleading advertising that carries the day.
Rob Reiner began by putting Proposition 10, a tobacco tax, on the ballot in 1998. The money was to go to programs for youngsters. Because smokers are about as popular as lepers were in the Middle Ages, the measure passed. Although the measure has provided billions of dollars for programs for children, Reiner was not satisfied with that. First he joined forces with the CTA in an effort to place on the ballot an increase in property taxes.
When drafting defects in the property tax increase initiative forced Reiner and the CTA to fold their efforts, Reiner decided that he would pursue his own initiative to provide universal preschool to be paid for by higher income taxes. Unfortunately for taxpayers, he used his position as Chairman of the First Five Commission, established by the Proposition 10 tax, to oversee the spending of 23 million taxpayers’ dollars on advertising to promote the preschool concept while his signature gatherers for his new initiative — Proposition 82 — were at work.
After studying Proposition 82, the Reason Foundation estimated that only a limited number of new students would be enrolled at a cost to taxpayers of $109,000 for each new preschool student.
Taxpayers put up a vigorous campaign against Proposition 82 and, fortunately, voters saw through the charade and voted it down.
Like Reiner, superwealthy Reed Hastings and his checkbook entered politics in the late 1990s. He began by gathering signatures for an initiative measure to force the state to spend more money on charter schools. When he had nearly enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, the Legislature got the message and increased funding as Hastings desired.
While this may have been good for charter schools, it also emboldened Hastings to believe that he could use the same process to make it easier to increase property taxes for school bonds. In 2000, he and a handful of sympathizers spent over $60 million to do away with the two-thirds vote for local school bonds that had protected taxpayers for 121 years. An expensive and misleading campaign that talked about accountability and never once mentioned higher taxes succeeded in passing Proposition 39. The result has been tens of billions of dollars in new bonds, the cost of which is borne exclusively by property owners.
But Hastings was not through with taxpayers. In 2006, he qualified something he called the “Classroom Learning and Accountability Act,” a first-time-ever statewide property tax, for the ballot as Proposition 88. It would have raised half-a-billion dollars by charging every parcel of property $50 to start. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell is on record favoring the establishment of a state property tax and increasing it by $50 every four years.
If passed, Hastings and his friends would have paid another $50 on their mansions and the couple struggling to buy a starter home would pay the same amount. Fortunately, a huge nonpartisan coalition led by taxpayers overwhelmed Proposition 88 with a 77 percent “no” vote.
Hastings continues to be a nuisance to taxpayers. In April 2009 he donated over $250,000 to a committee set up to support the May 19 special election propositions, which included Proposition 1A, a $16 billion tax increase. Fortunately, here too the taxpayers prevailed with a limited-budget campaign.
For a list of billionaire political dilettantes who helped pass Proposition 39 — raising property taxes on average homeowners by billions of dollars — click here.