Like inattentive students who dread having their parents see their unsatisfactory grades, most members of the California Legislature would just as soon not have their constituents see the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association Legislative Report Card documenting their votes on issues important to taxpayers.
Of the 120 members of the Legislature, 73 received a grade of “F” while only 36 earned an “A” grade.
The Report Card is a non-partisan tool for citizen taxpayers to hold legislators accountable based on actual legislative votes. It was Will Rogers who said, “If you ever injected truth into politics you have no politics.” While a satirist is allowed to paint with a broad brush, there is still more than a grain of truth here. Many in the political class dishonestly attempt to present themselves as standing for the interests of average folks. They pay lip service to low and moderate income Californians, while voting to make getting to work more expensive by increasing the already tops in the nation gasoline tax. They claim to be supporters of homeownership, but support measures that would increase the tax burden on property owners.
In the legislative session that ended last month, Governor Brown signed 808 bills. These bills create thousands of pages of new laws, spanning across dozens of code sections. The HJTA Legislative Report Card pulls the curtain back and identifies for taxpayers legislation that harms their interests, bills that otherwise do not receive much public attention. A prime example is Senate Bill 705 (Hill) a bill that was completely amended in the last month of session that allows for San Mateo and Monterey counties to pursue increased sales taxes beyond those authorized in current law.
The Report Card also rewards lawmakers who supported legislation that helps taxpayers like Assembly Bill 809 (Obernolte), an HJTA sponsored proposal that places additional information regarding tax increases in the ballot for all voters to see.
Votes on sixteen bills were used to score legislators. These reflect a range of policy issues including new tax and regulatory burdens, and attacks on the initiative process that would make it more difficult for taxpayers to have their voices heard.
With over a quarter of the members of the Legislature new to Sacramento politics, the HJTA Report Card provides an early indication as to who will be faithful to the interests of taxpayers. While grades have improved slightly over last year, it is clear that this new legislative class has started off by falling well short of taxpayer expectations.
Eight lawmakers deserve credit for a perfect score. Members of the Assembly receiving 100% are Frank Bigelow, Brian Jones, Beth Gaines, Tom Lackey, Chad Mayes, Jay Obernolte, and Jim Patterson. Senator Mike Morrell also received a perfect score.
To view the 2015 Legislative Report Card, and find which representatives are proud of their grades and which ones hope no one notices, please go to www.hjta.org where it can be found under “Hot Topics.” And remember, a functioning democracy depends on an informed electorate.
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.