Taxpayers in the Los Angeles area are facing an amazing array of tax increase proposals on the November ballot. The question is how will voters respond when faced with multiple requests for more of their dollars?
The MTA wants a ½-cent sales tax hike for thirty years to cover various transportation projects. When implemented (if passed), L.A.’s sales tax will be 8.75%. That assumes there will be no state sales tax increase that may come along in a state budget deal. If that happens, along with a successful MTA sales tax increase, Los Angeles residents will be looking at a sales tax over 9%. A quick search reveals that only certain parts of Tennessee have a sales tax above 9%, but Tennessee has a small income tax, taxing income only derived from dividends and interest.
The City of Los Angeles put a $36 dollar a year parcel tax on the ballot to fund anti-gang programs. No question the gang problem is serious and must be met. But city officials are just now trying to coordinate better oversight on current gang program funds. Many programs will be brought under the Mayor’s office. Some observers claim the reorganization of current gang programs should be given a chance to work before new funding is called for.
This potential gang program tax comes on top of a tripling of the trash pick up fees for the city of Los Angeles. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pledged that the initial garbage fee increase would be used to hire new police. Critics point out that Villaraigosa added less than half the new officers he promised when the tax was raised. Much of the money went to increased salaries. Now, the City Council voted to increase the trash fee again.
Property taxes will go up in areas of the city and county if school bonds are given an okay by the voters. The Los Angeles Unified School District seeks to pass a fifth school construction and maintenance bond since 1997. The successful previous four bonds totaled $13.6 billion. The schools want to float a bond for additional $3-10 billion.
And, the L.A. Community Colleges have jumped into the act, also seeking a $3.5 billion bond commitment from the voters.
Not quite. Los Angeles County wants to extend the utility user tax in unincorporated county areas to telecommunications equipment not covered by the present telephone tax. The bait for increasing taxes on this telecommunications equipment is to reduce the current tax rate from 5% to 4.5%.
True, no single Los Angeles city or county resident will suffer all the potential tax increases listed above, but any combination of these tax increases can add up to another blow to many citizen’s financial security.
All this and we’re not talking about potential state tax increases, so-called loophole closings; and statewide bonds that will add to the taxpayers overall burden.
Why this flurry of tax activity proposed by government officials? Yes, public coffers are taking a hit during the economic downturn. But, surely, elected officials know that the average citizen is already balancing increased costs for food, fuel, and other necessities.
Why do these officials think the taxpayers who are scrambling to make ends meet will be eager to raise so many different taxes on themselves?
Much of the strategy is about timing. Officials have been convinced, often by campaign consultants, that projected record turnouts for the November election will bring to the polls more voters who are interested in raising taxes, on themselves or on others.
Any number of things can affect turnout. Rain storms on election day; a big lead for a presidential candidate convincing some would be voters they don’t need to vote; television networks declaring a winner in the presidential race before California polls close.
But turnout is unlikely to counterbalance the piling on effect taxpayers will feel from all these tax measures. Constant talk of tax increases will blur the different measures in taxpayers’ minds and some, if not all of the measures, could face a voter backlash.