The November election could see Californians confronted with a record number of local tax hike measures. Despite the fact the economy is in the doldrums and people are struggling to pay for gas food housing this hasn’t slowed down local politicians making major new demands on taxpayers’ wallets.
The big push for higher local taxing has come about at the advice of political consultants who have been telling officials that Barack Obama is the key to tax riches. Their polls and focus groups indicate that enthusiasm for Obama in California will generate an abnormally large turnout of young and lower income voters voters who tend to vote for tax hikes because rightly or wrongly they believe they will not be impacted by the increased levies.
So politicians with dreams of higher revenues dancing through their heads are taking full advantage of the opportunities that Obamamania offers. For example if you live in the city of Los Angeles you will be asked to approve a property parcel tax for anti-gang programs two huge multi-billion dollar bonds for the community college system and the LAUSD as well as a half cent sales tax for transportation. Los Angeles County residents in addition to the sales tax increase face paying more to use wireless phone service.
San Jose has two telephone related tax measures on the ballot and Sacramento wants to expand the tax on phones to include text messaging. There are dozens more.
All of these local taxes are in addition to the billions of dollars of new taxes the governor and the majority in the Legislature want to impose at the state level. Although the latest budget deal eschews taxes the pressure to raise them will be even greater in a few short months. And finally who knows what will happen at the federal level with a new administration and an economy teetering on the brink.
The glint of gold has blinded the politicians from seeing that California already ranks 6th out of 50 states in tax burden and that the business climate ranks 47th according to the Tax Foundation. Californians pay the highest income taxes and the highest sales tax in the nation. Business taxes are the highest in the West.
And Property taxes? Well thanks to Proposition 13 California ranks in the middle of the pack not exactly the bargain the tax-and-spend lobby would like the public to believe but one of the few genuine tax benefits Californians enjoy.
However there is a hole in the political consultants’ logic. It assumes that each taxpayer will be confronted with only one tax. It assumes they won’t be astounded when they open their ballot pamphlets and in many jurisdictions find that multiple agencies are reaching for their wallets. Collectively voters preoccupied with their day-to-day problems may take a while to catch on but they are not stupid. When voters see what all these tax increase proposals will actually cost them they are likely to respond with anger and the politicians’ tax increase schemes may end up looking like a hundred drowning men reaching for a life raft built for ten — they will all go down.
The average taxpayer understands something the consultants and politicians have overlooked — that this level of taxation is unreasonable. Ironically this may have been best expressed by Senator Obama himself who in his acceptance speech stated "Because in an economy like this the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class."
Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest taxpayer organization — which is dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and promoting taxpayers’ rights.