Earlier this month legislators returned to their districts following the passage of a three-months-late budget that kicks a massive deficit problem — already estimated at $12 billion — into next year. As they hit campaign mode in earnest most are patting themselves on the back telling their constituents what a good job they are doing bringing home “budget goodies” and protecting expensive programs. And they have accomplished all this they say while being “champions” for the taxpayer.
However tear back the curtain on this legislative year and there is very little to commend. Members continue to pass tax increases masquerading as fees that their constituents cannot afford in the midst of this recession. They continue to pass redevelopment bills that strip money away from essential services provided by local governments. And they are still trying to pass “nanny government” proposals like the plastic bag bill that have the potential to increase costs to consumers by billions of dollars.
It is the votes on these bills that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association examines in our annual Legislative Report Card. We recognize that talk especially among politicians is cheap. They will say that they are fighting to hold the line on spending and are sticking up for taxpayers but the only way to know for sure is if they are held accountable for the votes they actually cast.
The HJTA report card is designed to help Californians gauge how their state representatives are performing on taxpayer-related issues. For the 2010 legislative season 18 bills were used to evaluate and grade voting records. Most of these bills deal with tax increases — often masquerading as fees — or direct assaults on Proposition 13 and Proposition 218 the Right to Vote on Taxes Act. However we have also included some that would increase costs to taxpayers or would limit voters’ ability to engage in the initiative process.
The 2010 scores reflect what a difficult year it was for those defending taxpayers’ interests. A majority of legislators in both houses received a score of D or F. On the other end of the scale a record-low 19 legislators received ‘A’ grades. Of these there were five representatives who received a perfect score of 100%. Assemblyman Ted Gaines deserves special mention for having achieved this distinction twice since joining the Legislature.
Much like the legislative year this is not going to be a report card that many members will be able to trumpet with enthusiasm. Like the report cards they received growing up we can only hope that this grade goes up on their refrigerators as a reminder to do better next year.
To view the 2010 Legislative Report Card please go to 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.