Voters Say They Pay Too Much in Taxes—But Vote for More

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

While a group of legislators push a constitutional amendment to lower the voting requirement for certain local taxes and bonds, voters told Public Policy Institute of California pollsters that they pay too much in local taxes. Maybe it is time they stop voting for some of the tax increases on the ballot.

PPIC reported that six in ten Californians said they pay more in state taxes than they should. Democrats (53%), Independents (67%) and Republicans (76%) said they pay much more or somewhat more than they should.

They all can pay a lot more if ACA 1 becomes law.

The proposal by Assembly member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and some 30 co-authors would lower the vote standard to pass a tax or a bond for housing and infrastructure from two-thirds to 55%.

Previous efforts to lower the vote requirement to make it easier to raise taxes have been thwarted in the legislature. Yet, despite record tax collections, government surpluses, and voters who have generously supported tax increases in the past, that is not enough to satisfy the tax and spend factions who back the bill.

However, if the voters are not satisfied with the amount of taxes they pay (and in the PPIC poll only 6% of Democrats, 2% of Independents and 1% of Republicans said they pay less than they should), then the voters ought to turn thumbs down at the ballot box when they have the chance.

In the most recent November election, 313 of 386 tax and bond measures passed. That’s 81% of all tax increase measures offered to the voters. Of the measures that required a two-thirds vote, 66% passed.

So why does the vote requirement have to be lowered?

Simply because those who enjoy what one early 19th century congressman called the ‘most delicious of all privileges, spending other people’s money,’ want more of it to spend. Besides the issues they claim the money will go toward they also worry about local government pension costs that are squeezing local general fund budgets and which legislators don’t appear to have the gumption to take on so they seek more money to patch over the problem.

Proponents of ACA 1 will argue that they are simply giving the voters an opportunity to vote for taxes to confront serious problems. On the local level, the pro-spending side usually has the advantage of the weight of the local officials supporting measures, producing more money for electioneering, and for what is euphemistically called information campaigns which don’t ask for a Yes vote but point out all the reasons passing the tax would be desirable.

ACA 1 needs a two-thirds vote in the legislature to make the ballot either in March or November 2020. It passed its first test in the Assembly Local Government Committee.

In the meanwhile, if voters think they are paying too much in taxes, when tax proposals are presented to them they should vote No.

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