What taxpayers should know about the midterm results
True to form with elections in California, we will not know the outcomes of many key races for days, if not weeks. But we can already discern some notable trends of particular relevance to taxpayers.
First, in statewide office contests, Republicans are irrelevant as California remains in the grip of one-party rule. As proof, consider the race for state Controller, one of the most important constitutional offices. The Controller is the state’s chief fiscal officer, acting as the state’s accountant and supervising local government finances.
Lanhee Chen, a Republican, ran as a non-ideological policy expert who could have provided California taxpayers with some real accountability. He was endorsed by every major newspaper in California and while he is faring slightly better than other top-of-the-ticket Republicans, it’s clear most Californians voted party line irrespective of competence.
Second, grass roots activism is still important. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association worked to defeat several tax increases across the state, including Measure SP in Los Angeles. Measure SP was a $6.8 billion parcel tax that would have ostensibly gone to parks, but the language was so vague that both the editorial board of this newspaper and the progressive Los Angeles Times opposed it.
HJTA, the business community and other grassroots allies worked hard to raise awareness against the measure, and it looks to be heading for a sizable defeat. Homeowners remain a potent political force and would be even more powerful if they realized the potential they have for impacting elections.
Third, those perceived as “wealthy” are vulnerable. While HJTA was successful in defeating Measure SP, it does not look like it was successful in its campaign against Measure ULA — also in Los Angeles. Measure ULA raises taxes on real estate sales worth more than $5 million to fund homelessness prevention programs. On the surface, Measure ULA appeared to affect only the very wealthy and since it’s someone else’s money, why not? In truth, it affects the sale of apartment buildings, supermarkets and businesses, raising costs to tenants and consumers.
Fourth, like it or not, Gov. Gavin Newsom is in the catbird seat. Measure ULA proves that an adage remains true, Californians are fine with raising someone else’s taxes. With that in mind, it seems likely that Gov. Newsom’s opposition to Prop. 30, a tax increase on high-earning Californians to fund electric vehicle subsidies, was a key factor in the defeat of the measure.
Fifth, as the Beatles remind us, money can’t buy you love. Lyft spent nearly $50 million to get Prop. 30 passed and failed. Meanwhile, the proponents of the two gambling initiatives, Props. 26 and 27, spent more than $400 million dollars on their initiatives (and against one another). Both are losing big.
Sixth, voters are on to the games that SEIU plays. Please, no more dialysis initiatives. Prop. 29 would have been expensive for patients, clinics and taxpayers. At the time of writing, it is losing by almost 70% and failing in every single county in the state.
However, as noted at the outset, any observations about the California midterm election made in the first week need to be taken with a grain of salt. There are still many ballots left to be counted and the results could shift significantly. But one thing is certain, for taxpayers generally, California remains hostile territory. The lack of any movement toward fiscal sanity will no doubt result in thousands more businesses and individuals leaving the state for places with superior governance. This includes not just tax and spending issues, but also the ability to conduct an election efficiently.
Note that Florida finished their count on election night. Just saying.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.