These are creepy times for taxpayers — the creepiest in memory. Between the state and local ballots there are hundreds of measures that would increase the burden on taxpayers. If all or most of these tax increases and bonds pass it will be Halloween every day as taxpayers are compelled to dole out big dollar treats to our political class.
Much of the cause of this tsunami of tax increase proposals is due to the Obama phenomenon. Political consultants have told their clients in government that this is an ideal time to put tax measures on the ballot because the presidential candidate is driving low-income voters to the polls who will be inclined to support higher taxes for those they see as more prosperous than themselves.
Cynical politicians have gleefully taken the advice and are proceeding with a policy that can best be summed up as — with apologies to Admiral Farragut — "Damn the economy! Full taxation ahead!" How else can they ignore the fact that our state is in a recession and taxpayers are in a vise?
Unemployment is at 7.7 percent and predictions are that it will go up from here. The home foreclosure rate is setting records and we continue to see an out-migration of citizens according to the State Department of Finance. And California already rates sixth in the nation in tax burden.
The Wall Street meltdown is threatening the savings of many and threatening those already retired. Additionally CalPERS and other funds that provide for public employee retirement have lost in some cases as much as 25 percent of their value over the past year.
The chickens are coming home to roost. Bad judgment by elected officials who agreed to contracts with public employee unions based on unrealistic projections of economic growth is resulting in billions of new obligations for already stressed taxpayers who now must guarantee a secure retirement for government workers as their own fortunes sink.
Adding to the uncertainty is the possibility that if Barack Obama is elected president there will be arguments out of Washington that anyone who is already paying income taxes is "rich" and should be prepared to contribute to the welfare of those who pay no taxes.
Unfortunately in spite of our dire circumstances California’s airwaves are being saturated with false advertising portraying state bond measures as benefiting the economy or as having no impact on taxes. Propositions 1A 3 and 10 would result in $32 billion in additional debt including interest which must be paid from the
general fund. This means that there will be less for other important state programs. Powerful interests supporting education transportation and law enforcement will not sit idly by while their budgets are cut to pay off bonded indebtedness which is so high — even without this new borrowing — that Wall Street considers California a poor credit risk. The clamoring for new tax increases will be deafening.
So in a way this election is the opposite of Halloween. Instead of innocent children wearing spooky costumes those knocking on taxpayers’ doors are tax increase monsters trying to look benign by hiding behind false images of children a green economy and high speed transportation for all.
Taxpayers would be wise not to open the door.
Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest taxpayer organization — which is dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and promoting taxpayers’ rights.