A popular meme making the rounds shows a row of Porta-Potties engulfed in flames. Underneath is written, “If 2020 Were a Scented Candle.”
No two ways about it, 2020 has been a very bad year for millions of Americans who have suffered from all the fallout associated with the pandemic. Many have been furloughed or lost their jobs entirely while others lost loved ones. It is doubtful that anyone hasn’t been negatively affected in some way from what has been a difficult year.
It’s even worse here in California, as hard as that might be to believe. We have the highest poverty rate in the nation when the cost of living is taken into account, and both citizens and businesses are leaving the state in distressing numbers due to high taxes, high unemployment, burdensome regulations and deteriorating public safety.
To add insult to injury, we have clueless political leaders who issue edicts while they themselves ignore those rules. While they expect us to remain shut down, they take trips to Hawaii, go to hair salons and attend dinners at high-end restaurants.
And yet, there are a few things for which California taxpayers can actually be grateful this Thanksgiving season.
First and foremost is the successful defense of Proposition 13 by the defeat of Proposition 15, the so-called “split roll” initiative. For 42 years, Proposition 13 has remained essentially intact despite countless efforts to weaken it. The split roll proposal, advanced mostly by public-sector labor unions and radical progressive organizations, was the most serious challenge to homeowners in four decades.
The importance of the Prop. 15 victory is difficult to overstate. The proponents had several advantages that made this election cycle their most favorable for weakening Prop. 13, and yet they still lost. While tax-and-spend interests will surely continue to pursue higher taxes, such as even higher income taxes and sales taxes, it is doubtful that another assault on property owners will occur again any time soon.
Taxpayers are also thankful for the result of other ballot measures. A proposal to permit more rent control in California was soundly rejected, which is good news for those who believe in rational, market-based housing policies that actually incentivize more residential construction. Voters also approved an initiative that allows app-based drivers to retain their status as independent contractors, a blow to an ill-advised state law that has restricted economic freedom. Perhaps now Assembly Bill 5 will be fully repealed.
But being thankful does not mean taxpayers can let their guard down. The California Legislature still has progressive supermajorities in both the Assembly and the state Senate.
An even bigger threat may appear in the form of proposed constitutional amendments emanating from the Legislature. We saw this with Proposition 19, a billion-dollar tax increase on parent-child transfers of property. The complex measure, regrettably, was narrowly approved by voters who may not have been aware of what was in the fine print.
Still, California taxpayers can be grateful that we still have the power of the initiative, referendum and recall. Although these tools can be abused by powerful special interests, in the hands of taxpayers, they are a critical weapon to affect positive change for fiscal restraint and open government.
Finally, for all of its failed political leadership and foolish public policies, we should be grateful to be citizens of California. While we sympathize with those millions of former residents who have fled to less oppressive states, let’s appreciate that we have the tools to make this even a better place to live.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.