This November, California voters will face a slew of tax and bond proposals at both the state and local levels. Each of those ballot measures will be supported by the usual pleas from those who benefit from higher taxes – especially well-funded labor organizations.
Special interests will complain about the “cuts” to vital public programs in education, transportation, health care, etc., that they have suffered in the past. But the problem they have is that they run head long into the facts – facts which show California government is now more flush with cash than at any other time in its more than 160 year history.
The California state budget projects spending of $122.6 billion of general fund dollars which is over 5% higher than last year and a stunning 42% more than when Brown took office in 2011.
As we get closer to the November election, this column will present a host of reasons why most tax increases should be rejected. We do this in full knowledge that our opponents, with tens of millions of dollars in campaign funds, will drown out any competing messages of fiscal responsibility, protections for homeowners and a healthy economic climate to ensure that California remains competitive for businesses both large and small.
For now, let’s focus on property taxes as that is of special concern to many California voters, especially homeowners. The state controller just announced that property taxes are surging in California – up over $3 billion from the previous year. The long-standing urban myth that Proposition 13 has decimated local governments has, once again, been proven false by the data. In short, California is not a low property tax state. Per capita property tax collections in the Golden State are significantly higher than the national average and that has been true for many years now.
This is just one fact of many that voters should consider when confronted with tax hike proposals on the ballot. And this is especially true when local governments are seeking higher property tax levies in the form of “parcel taxes” – property taxes imposed in excess of Proposition 13’s one percent limit.
There are dozens of other reasons to reject tax increases this November including California’s penchant for pursuing massive boondoggle projects and the fact that most tax increases will not be used for new programs or higher levels of service, but rather to shore up failing pension funds.
It is our hope that Californians will not be swayed by the false claims that higher taxes are necessary. If voters are paying attention at all, they will quickly come to that same conclusion.
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.