It was Will Rogers who said, “If you ever injected truth into politics you have no politics.” If the renowned satirist were with us today, he would not be shocked by the dishonesty of the Sacramento political class, even if the rest of us find it offensive.
Many of our current class of politicians attempt to present themselves as standing for the interests of average folks. They pay lip service to low and moderate income Californians, while California continues to have the highest sales and gas taxes in the nation. They claim to be supporters of property ownership, then attack Proposition 13 and then proceed to make it easier for government to take private property through eminent domain.
For those trying to sort out who is actually representing average taxpayers and who, instead, is doing the bidding of powerful special interests, the just released Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association Legislative Report Card will help. The Report Card holds lawmakers accountable by documenting how lawmakers have voted on issues important to taxpayers.
Of the 120 members of the Legislature, 76 received a grade of “F” while only 27 earned an “A” grade.
In the legislative session that ended last month, Governor Brown signed over 800 bills. These bills create thousands of pages of new laws, spanning dozens of code sections. The HJTA Legislative Report Card also draws attention to the best and worst of these bills. For example, Assembly Bill 2153 (Cristina Garcia) that imposes a new tax on car batteries. It may seem like a small matter to some, but it represents another step by Sacramento to make personal transportation more expensive for average folks.
The Report Card also spotlights lawmakers who support legislation that helps taxpayers. Los Angeles Assemblyman Matt Dababneh received a higher grade due to his carrying an HJTA-sponsored bill, AB 1891. This new law allows seniors and those with disabilities to permanently opt out of paying education parcel taxes if they fill out a required form one time, which is sent to their residence.
Votes on 22 bills were used to score lawmakers. 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 exercise their right to place measures, like Proposition 13, on the ballot.
The Report Card also documents a troubling trend. Some lawmakers, who at one time were supportive of taxpayers’ interests, seem to have shifted their allegiance and now routinely vote for taxes, bonds, and other measures that increase the burden on average Californians. A record number of these legislators received “C” and “D” grades this year. Taxpayers can only hope that this was due to election year politics and not the beginning of a trend.
Seven lawmakers deserve credit and thanks for a perfect score. Members of the Assembly receiving 100% are: Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes, Shannon Grove, Jay Obernolte, Matt Harper and Don Wagner. They were joined on the Senate side by Ted Gaines and Jim Nielsen.
To view the 2016 Legislative Report Card, and find which representatives are proud of their grades, and which would rather they stay hidden, please go to www.hjta.org where it can be found under “Hot Topics.”
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.