WHERE DOES YOUR MONEY GO — AND WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
Arguments from tax-raisers are easy to predict: The reason we can’t have “X” good thing is because taxpayers don’t pay enough.
So the tax-raisers say something like, “We want every school to have a petting zoo, and we will pay for it with a tax on banks. Banks have plenty of money, but not enough kids get to play with animals. Why are banks being so greedy and depriving children of this wonderful experience?”
The goal here is framing the argument. They want to make taxpayer advocates defend a group that may not be popular (banks, in my example) and argue against something easy to like (kids getting to play with cute animals).
What they try to avoid like the plague is a discussion of where the vast amount of money they already spend actually goes because such a conversation inevitably exposes the fact that, as the saying goes, they have a spending problem, not a revenue problem.
Every year on Tax Day, we release a new edition of our “Follow the Money” report. It documents and exposes new examples of waste, fraud and abuse brought to light in the previous year through investigations by the state auditor, the media or legislative inquiries. It’s important to note that these are not all of the instances of waste, fraud and abuse but merely the ones known to the general public at this time. What we know could be only the tip of the iceberg.
What kind of wild spending is being documented in this latest edition? Among the examples are:
- A $300 million electronic voting system in L.A. County that was approved for use despite needing last-minute modifications for “serious security and technical problems identified in testing,” according to the Associated Press
- Housing for the homeless that costs more than half a million dollars per unit
- $35 million awarded, without budget authorization, to a well-connected and partisan PR firm for “voter outreach”
Ultimately, we all are best off when government spends our hard-earned taxpayer dollars responsibly. That way, money goes where it’s intended, and politicians have less reason to ask for more.
You can help to hold your local government accountable for their spending by getting engaged in the political process. There are many local boards and agencies in your area, and the more citizens attend their meetings, read their agendas and examine what they’re doing, the less likely they are to get away with wasteful spending and even fraud.
Among the types of government bodies you may consider engaging with are your county board of supervisors, city council and school board.
There also are hundreds of special districts throughout California. These are entities such as parks and recreation districts, air quality management districts, utility regulators, water management districts and transportation agencies. The boards of these government bodies hold meetings and spend your money, so their activities are public and can impact your wallet. You can learn more about special districts at the website of the California Special Districts Association: https://www.csda.net/special-districts/learn-about.
Most meetings can now be accessed online on services such as Zoom, so getting involved and making yourself heard is easier than ever. You can literally testify at a city council meeting from your living room while wearing your bunny slippers!
And if you happen to observe your local public officials engaging in a particularly brazen abuse of your tax dollars, please contact your Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. We are always interested in talking with concerned taxpayers about how you can fight back and to explore ways that we can help. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime.