All of California groans under the weight of the country’s highest tax rates. But Orange County, at least, has lower tax rates that any large metropolitan area in the state. For that, residents should thank John Moorlach, who now is running for supervisor in the 2nd District.
In 1994, he ran for treasurer-tax collector, predicting the “roulette wheel” investment policies of incumbent Democrat Bob Cintron might lead to bankruptcy. Moorlach lost. But that December, Orange County did declare bankruptcy. Citron resigned. On March 22, 1995, the supervisors appointed Moorlach to replace him and rescue the county.
He faced an immediate crisis: The Measure R tax increase some county leaders put on the ballot for that June. Supposedly it would pull the county out of the pit of financial ruin.
Moorlach led the opposition to Measure R. He insisted he could repair the county’s finances by cutting waste and working with creditors. He asserted a tax increase would not only hurt taxpayers, but besmirch the county’s national reputation as an oasis of fiscal sanity and prudence in the desert of fiscal nuttiness called California.
He told creditors the defeat of Measure R would be a sign of Orange County’s continued fiscal soundness, keeping interest rates low and repayment confidence high.
Voters listened to Moorlach and Measure R went down in a massive, two-to-one defeat.
After putting the county’s finances in order as treasurer-tax collector, Moorlach took his anti-tax principles to the Board of Supervisors after voters elected him to the new post in 2006.
Just a year later the Great Recession struck globally. Again, the pressure was immense to raise taxes. The state of California unfortunately did so in January 2009, with the Legislature passing a record tax increase of $13 billion. It actually hurt the state by slowing the economic recovery. Other states poached Golden State businesses seeking tax havens.
Taxes at least stayed low in Orange County, as Moorlach again insisted: No new taxes. As board chairman, he led the supervisors through making the tough choices to cut waste and keep the county in order. Sure enough, Orange County led California out of the recovery that began in 2010, its unemployment rate well below the state rate. Businesses – when they didn’t hit the road for other states – moved to Orange County for its welcoming business climate.
oters elected Moorlach to the California Senate in 2015, where he spent nearly six years opposing taxes, especially the $5 billion, hated gas tax of 2017. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stop the Democratic majority from passing it. But rather than standing athwart history yelling “stop” in the tax-and-spend state Legislature, on the Board of Supervisors, Moorlach can be the difference maker.
In his current run for supervisor, Moorlach again has pledged to stop all new county taxes. In that regard, California’s loss may be Orange County’s gain. There has never been a more important time to have a taxpayer advocate holding the reins of government. When you only need to convince two of your fellow supervisors, rather than a majority of the state Legislature, fiscal sanity is possible.
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office warned state lawmakers in a January report that they should slow down the governor’s plans for accelerated early spending, citing pending federal aid, the uncertainty of revenues during the pandemic, and the unknown effect of the vaccine roll-out.
The public has endured unprecedented hardship during this pandemic. As local governments face tough decisions, it’s critically important that we have people in public office who understand that tax increases drive up the cost of living and contribute to our highest-in-the-nation poverty rate.
Moorlach’s experience in complex matters of government finance would be especially valuable to help Orange County navigate the difficult path through the pandemic without incurring reckless debt or saddling families and businesses with damaging tax increases.
For 27 years, John Moorlach has protected Orange County taxpayers from the greed of the big spenders and bigger wasters. Voters would be wise to return him to the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.