California taxpayers are reminded of the guy who fell off the roof of a high-rise building. As he passed each floor office workers would call out “How’s it going?” and to each he would politely respond “So far so good.”
For taxpayers each day that goes by without having to confront a tax increase is like passing another floor without a bad outcome.
In the movies the falling man might be saved by a conveniently placed awning that would slow his fall and allow him to survive unscathed. In the real world the only barrier between average Californians and the perpetuation of a crushing tax burden are Republican legislators who have heroically withstood the complaints and threats of the tax-and-spend lobby (and their enablers in the media) and refused to provide the votes to place Gov. Brown’s taxes on the ballot. Although Brown has cajoled and screamed — one lawmaker reports that he was yelled at for an hour at a recent meeting by Brown and company — in an effort to get Republicans to agree to place his massive tax increase on a June special election ballot these lawmakers have held firm.
Those who want to continue to ride the spending gravy train are trying to portray those who oppose placing five years of high taxes on the ballot as democracy despising heartless primitives who care nothing about the most vulnerable in our society. They prefer to ignore that their regressive tax program falls disproportionally on those of modest means.
Latest polls show that public support for the governor’s proposed taxes is waning so why would opponents of higher taxes hesitate to put the matter to a vote? For an answer one only has to look back to the special election of May 2009 which featured this same tax package — an extension of temporary taxes that had just been imposed by the Legislature. The well-heeled special interest backers of the taxes that included some of the largest government employee unions spent over twenty million dollars on deceptive advertising to try to convince voters to approve tax increases. Television ads and direct mail asking for a yes vote on what was the largest tax increase in the history of all 50 states never once mentioned the word “taxes.” Although tax promoters outspent the opponents of new taxes by ten-to-one voters saw through the charade and said no.
Still this was at the beginning a temporary two year tax increase and the government employee unions who represent the highest paid public workers in all 50 states did not feel the same level of desperation as they do now that the taxes are about to expire. Some observers believe the unions are prepared to spend $60 million to guarantee passage of Brown’s tax program.
If the taxes go to the ballot we can expect to be deluged with expensive television ads showing teachers and firefighters receiving pink slips as school gates clang shut and calls to 911 go unanswered. They will portray the issue to be about the poor elderly and disabled — the recipients of government services — when the tax increases are actually to satisfy the government employee union providers of these services. This is why taxpayers see no need to go through the expense of a special election. They do not want to risk that voters will be bamboozled by tens of millions of dollars of misleading advertising when they already spoke clearly on this issue just two years ago.
So it is “So far so good” for taxpayers and if none of the currently courageous Republicans turns Benedict Arnold we may still look forward to a soft landing of a return to lower tax rates. Although even then Californians will continue to be some of the most heavily taxed citizens in the nation.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.