The real story behind Sacramento’s push for tax hikes: pension red ink

Editorial, San Diego Union-Tribune | Two bold proposals to increase both taxes and what can be taxed illustrate how California’s elected leaders are failing to be honest with voters about the nature of the budget problems facing the state.

The first is the long-anticipated effort to change Proposition 13, the landmark 1978 ballot measure limiting property tax increases to 2 percent a year, so that it no longer applies to commercial and industrial parcels. Proponents appear to have gathered enough signatures that voters will be asked to consider what’s known as “split roll” in 2020. This has the potential to generate an additional $6 billion to $10 billion a year in new revenue. Local governments would get 60 percent of this windfall and school districts would get 40 percent. Advocates tout the measure as an easy way to fund new and improved social services and to boost school quality.

The second is the renewed push to impose a first-ever tax on water use to help pay for improving water quality for the 1 million-plus Californians in impoverished areas without consistent access to safe water. After previous efforts collapsed, Gov. Jerry Brown and his allies in the Legislature have come up with a twist: making the tax “voluntary” by allowing residents to opt out of paying the 95 cents or so they would otherwise have to pay per month. It’s anticipated this would raise about $100 million a year.

Both of these efforts are shrouded by smokescreens that obscure key facts.


UnsustainableSo what is driving this push to increase and broaden taxation? It’s the pension tsunami. The “split roll” and water tax push are meant to shore up governments that provide some indefensibly generous retirement benefits to public employees because of poor decision-making and the political clout of unions — benefits that already claim 15 percent or more of many government budgets [like Fullerton's] and are on their way to a much higher percentage.

To read the entire editorial, please click here.

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Tonight’s city council meeting agenda

The AgendaTo read or download tonight’s detailed council meeting agenda, please click here (pdf).

The public participation portion of the meeting begins at 6:30 with presentations and awards. Actual city business normally doesn’t start until 7:00 or 7:30 . . . or even later.

And you can also watch it on cable Channel 3 (Spectrum — formerly Time Warner Cable).

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Downtown paid parking proposal on tomorrow’s council meeting agenda

Downtown Fullerton Parking Game PlanThe City Council will consider the implementation of a 90-Day Downtown Nighttime Paid Parking Pilot Program at tomorrow night’s regularly scheduled meeting. It’s Item #1 on the agenda under Regular Business.

We first reported on this on July 23.

Here’s the staff recommendation from the agenda item’s backup memo prepared by Community Development Director Ted White:

RECOMMENDATION: Approve a 90-day downtown nighttime paid parking pilot program within the following parameters:

a) Location:Public parking lots and structures generally bounded by Wilshire Avenue on the north, the railroad tracks on the south, Malden Avenue on the west and Pomona Avenue on the east

b) Days and Times:Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights between 8:00 PM and 1:00 AM

c) Fees: A flat fee for parking set at $5 with the potential for adjustments based on demand, not to exceed $10

d) Use of Net Revenues: Designate revenue from the program for reinvestment into the operations of the Downtown, generally including maintenance, enforcement, safety and security and including funding for the preparation of an Assessment Engineer’s Report to inform consideration of the formation of a Business Improvement District and/or other type of Landscape, Lighting or Maintenance District.

Read the item’s agenda report (PDF) here. Details of the proposal (HTML) can be found on the city’s website here.

Posted in City Council, Parking, Taxes | 2 Comments

By all means, let’s educate the voters about Proposition 13

By Jon Coupal | This past week, progressive interest groups announced they had sufficient signatures to qualify an initiative for the 2020 ballot that is a direct attack on Proposition 13. Specifically, this so-called “split roll” initiative would raise property taxes on the owners of business properties to the tune of $11 billion every year, according to the backers. Because many small business owners rent their property via “triple net” leases, they too would be subject to radical increases in the cost of doing business.

A weekly column by Jon CoupalAlthough there is a statewide election this November, the “split roll” measure will not appear on the ballot until 2020 because the proponents, either intentionally or not, did not submit their signatures in time for the 2018 ballot. They say they anticipate a better voter turnout in two years, which in itself may be wishful thinking. Ben Grieff, a community organizer with the ultra-progressive group Evolve, also said that the later election would be necessary to lay the groundwork for “a long two-year campaign” and that, “we need all of that to educate people.”

Well, educating people about Prop. 13 cuts both ways. And if past campaigns and polling are any indication, the more Californians learn about Prop. 13, the more they like it.

So let’s start today’s lesson with an overview of a class we’ll call “Why Prop. 13 is Good for California.” Here are the benefits of it in a nutshell.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Posted in Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Jon Coupal, Prop. 13 | Leave a comment

Protecting taxpayer interests in the fire liability fight

By Jon Coupal | One of the most contentious political battles currently being waged in Sacramento during the final two weeks of the legislative session is over the extent to which investor-owned utilities, such as Pacific Gas & Electric, should be held liable and have to compensate property owners for the damage inflicted by the horrendous wildfires that are still burning across the state. Average California taxpayers and homeowners probably sense this is a big deal because of extensive media coverage, but may not know what to think about it.

Here’s what’s going on.

A weekly column by Jon CoupalFirst, there is little dispute that the number of wildfires and their intensity has increased dramatically in recent years. Investor-owned utilities, including PG&E as well as San Diego Gas & Electric, have been forced into big legal settlements because many fires were allegedly caused by electrical wires or other equipment. The utilities, however, have attempted to shift some of the blame to natural causes such as climate change, which they argue produces the conditions for more catastrophic fires. (More recently, blame has also been placed at California’s mismanagement of public lands, which is undoubtedly a contributing cause).

Determining liability for wildfires is such a hot issue — no pun intended — because of the amount of money involved. San Diego Gas & Electric was facing more than 2,500 lawsuits and thus paid $2.4 billion in settlements for its role in three 2007 fires that burned over 1,500 homes, took human lives and burned 368,316 acres in San Diego County. Fires still burning as this column is being written have inflicted even greater damage and loss of life.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Posted in Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Jon Coupal, Wildfires | Leave a comment

Fullerton City Hall is closed today for another three-day weekend

City Hall Closure Dates and
Observed Holidays

January –1*, 12, 26
February – 9, 19*, 23
March – 9, 23
April – 6, 20
May – 4, 18, 28*
June – 1, 15, 29
July – 4*, 13, 27
August10, 24
September – 3*, 7, 21
October – 5, 19
November – 2, 11*, 16, 22*, 23*,30
December – 14, 24*, 25*, 26^,27^, 28, 31*

*Holiday observed
^Winter Closure

Fullerton City Hall

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Watch last night’s city council meeting

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Despite law, politicians use taxpayer funds for campaigns

By Dan Walters, CALmatters | Government Code Section 8314 is unambiguous, declaring, “It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer, including any state or local appointee, employee, or consultant, to use or permit others to use public resources for a campaign activity, or personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.”

The law embraces an obvious principle. It would be unfair and undemocratic were officials to use taxpayers’ money for self-serving political campaigns.

Increasingly, however, California officials are doing exactly that, with little fear of being slapped down by prosecutors or the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

Dan WaltersIt’s now common for local officials seeking tax increases or bond issues from voters to hire campaign consultants on the fiction that they will provide unbiased information to the voting public.

These consultants conduct polling to determine which angles of proposals are most attractive to voters, write the measures to stress those popular features and then produce literature and ads to trumpet those selling points.

One of the syndrome’s more blatant examples occurred last year when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors proposed a half-cent sales-tax increase for services to the homeless.

The county gave TBWB Strategies, a San Francisco consulting firm, a $1 million contract to work on the tax measure.

The company isn’t shy about its mission, boasting on its website that “TBWB helps you package and pass a ballot measure to meet your needs by efficiently getting your message out to persuade voters and mobilize your base of support.”

Its campaign for the county included television and radio spots that touted the benefits of the tax. They apparently worked, because the measure passed.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association complained to the FPPC that, by another law, the county should have filed a campaign contribution report, but the FPPC refused to act. Last month, the organization filed a lawsuit to challenge the TBWB contract’s legality.

Los Angeles County apparently sees the homeless tax as a template. Supervisors have since voted to place a “parcel tax” on the November ballot of 2.5 cents per square foot of “improvements that cannot be permeated by rainwater,” such as driveways, with the estimated $300 million in annual revenue going to improve water services.

They also approved an additional $2 million for a consultant to supply “public outreach and education” about the new tax. But the California Taxpayers Association reported that an “educational video aired during the (supervisors’) meeting touted the measure as one that would result in ‘better quality of life for everyone in L.A.,’ and ended with the statement: ‘Now let’s do this, before the opportunity dries up.’ ”

Not only is slanted “information” now a regular feature of local tax and bond campaigns, but state government is headed down the same slippery slope.

Caltrans signs at highway construction projects tout financing by Senate Bill 1, the $5.2 billion a year fee and gas-tax measure that the Legislature approved last year but now faces possible repeal via a November ballot measure.

State Sen. Ling Ling Chang, a Republican from Diamond Bar who won her seat in the recall of Democratic Sen. Josh Newman over his vote for SB 1, is complaining to Caltrans that with repeal pending, the signs are improper. “No sign is needed to educate the public,” she said in a letter to the agency.

All of the taxes involved, including the gas tax, may be justifiable on their own merits. But using taxpayer money to persuade voters to endorse them is just plain wrong and violates the spirit, and perhaps the letter, of Section 8314.

Dan Walters is an opinion columnist for CALmatters where this column originally appeared. CALmatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters.

Posted in Dan Walters, Gas Tax, Ling Ling Chang, SB 1 | Comments Off

Tonight’s city council meeting agenda

The AgendaTo read or download tonight’s detailed council meeting agenda, please click here (pdf).

The public participation portion of the meeting begins at 6:30 with presentations and awards. Actual city business normally doesn’t start until 7:00 or 7:30 . . . or even later.

And you can also watch it on cable Channel 3 (Spectrum — formerly Time Warner Cable).

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California’s leaky bucket theory of public improvement

By Jon Coupal | Unfortunately, Californians have come to expect significant levels of waste and incompetence when it comes to government programs. Just last week, we learned that the “new” $290 million computer system for the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration — in the works for over a decade — was having significant problems with tax filers trying to submit their quarterly returns. Despite California being home to Silicon Valley and the best high-tech minds on the planet, the State of California has a sorry history of failure when implementing big computer projects.

A weekly column by Jon Coupal

Although Will Rogers famously said it’s good that we don’t get all the government we pay for, Californians surely want more value for the outrageous level of taxation under which they are burdened. Other states provide better and higher levels of public service with much smaller tax burdens.

If one is carrying a bucket of water from a trough to a burning barn, it is best to have a bucket that doesn’t leak. If not, you’ll arrive at the fire with an empty bucket. When Sacramento carries taxpayer dollars to some popular project or program, they do so with a leaky bucket that virtually ensures that few dollars go to the intended target.

A story in the Sacramento Bee caught our eye last week about 2014’s Proposition 1, a $7.1 billion water bond measure approved by the voters. Not surprisingly, the bond measure was widely supported by a broad range of interest groups and received only token opposition. Given the high priority water has in the hearts and minds of Californians, such support is understandable.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Posted in Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Jon Coupal, Water | Comments Off