June 9, 2014
Last Tuesday’s election results are still being pondered, analyzed and examined by the pundits trying to make sense of it all. But few of these prognosticators attempt to read the tea leaves with a view toward answering this question: What did last week’s election mean for taxpayers?
As virtually all those who pay more into government than they receive are aware, California remains exceptionally hostile to taxpayers. So in judging whether statewide election results are “good” or “bad,” understand that our standards are pretty low. After all, if Texas had had election returns like California did last Tuesday, it would have been tantamount to the ten plagues which visited the Egyptian Pharaoh.
But given what this state is – with government still dominated by ultra-left, anti-taxpayer politicians – perhaps we should have a bit of optimism like the boy digging through the pile of manure looking for the pony.
First, like everyone else, we do have to bemoan the low voter turnout. At last count, less that 20% of registered voters bothered to show up at the polls. For taxpayers, that’s horrendous. Forgetting for the moment the statewide ballot measures – there were only two – many jurisdictions had local bond measures and parcel tax proposals on the ballot and almost all of them passed. Some were worthy of passage but many were not. Given that the political forces which support tax increases at the local level – public employees looking for higher wages and better benefits, government contractors and Wall Street financiers – it is always critical that voting taxpayers be aware of what’s on the ballot. Let’s be blunt. Citizens who don’t vote forfeit their right to complain about higher taxes.
Second, even though voters passed many local measures costing a ton of money in the coming years, the good news is that the high passage rate of local measures neutralizes the incessant complaint of the tax-and-spend advocates that the voter approval threshold for tax hikes needs to be reduced or eliminated entirely. Because of Constitutional amendments sponsored by HJTA, citizens are guaranteed the right to vote for most local tax, fee and assessment increases. Requiring voter approval for tax hikes, however, is a burr under the saddle of politicians who desire to tax at will without the hassle of engaging those who actually pay the bill. But the fact that the majority of local tax proposals were enacted by the voters renders moot the contention that voter approval is an insurmountable burden.
Third, although there were no Proposition 13 related issues on the ballot, you almost wouldn’t know it. Scores of politicians – whether they were true believers or charlatans – wrapped themselves in the mantle of Proposition 13 and claimed to be fiscal conservatives. So, if nothing else, last week’s election confirmed the enduring popularity of Proposition 13. Thirty-six years after its passage, Proposition 13 remains the proverbial “third rail” of California politics.
Fourth, the general consensus among political pundits is that the tax-and-spend lobby did not fare well last Tuesday. Many hard left candidates failed to make the “top two” primary and, from our vantage point, lots of taxpayer friendly candidates not only won a spot for a November runoff, but are well positioned for victory. For citizens struggling to keep more of their hard earned dollars in their own pocketbooks, that’s good news.
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.