The November election could see Californians confronted with a
record number of local tax hike measures. Despite the fact the
economy is in the doldrums and people are struggling to pay for gas,
food, housing, this hasn’t slowed down local politicians making
major new demands on taxpayers’ wallets.
The big push for higher local taxing has come about at the advice of
political consultants, who have been telling officials that Barack
Obama is the key to tax riches. Their polls and focus groups
indicate that enthusiasm for Obama in California will generate an
abnormally large turnout of young and lower income voters, voters
who tend to vote for tax hikes because, rightly or wrongly, they
believe they will not be impacted by the increased levies.
So politicians, with dreams of higher revenues dancing through their
heads, are taking full advantage of the opportunities that
Obamamania offers. For example, if you live in the city of Los
Angeles you will be asked to approve a property parcel tax for
anti-gang programs, two huge multi-billion dollar bonds for the
community college system and the LAUSD as well as a half cent sales
tax for transportation. Los Angeles County residents, in addition to
the sales tax increase, face paying more to use wireless phone
San Jose has two telephone related tax measures on the ballot and
Sacramento wants to expand the tax on phones to include text
messaging. There are dozens more.
All of these local taxes are in addition to the billions of dollars
of new taxes the governor and the majority in the Legislature want
to impose at the state level. Although the latest budget deal
eschews taxes, the pressure to raise them will be even greater in a
few short months. And, finally, who knows what will happen at the
federal level with a new administration and an economy teetering on
The glint of gold has blinded the politicians from seeing that
California already ranks 6th out of 50 states in tax burden and that
the business climate ranks 47th, according to the Tax Foundation.
Californians pay the highest income taxes and the highest sales tax
in the nation. Business taxes are the highest in the West.
And Property taxes? Well, thanks to Proposition 13, California ranks
in the middle of the pack, not exactly the bargain the tax-and-spend
lobby would like the public to believe, but one of the few genuine
tax benefits Californians enjoy.
However, there is a hole in the political consultants’ logic. It
assumes that each taxpayer will be confronted with only one tax. It
assumes they won’t be astounded when they open their ballot
pamphlets and, in many jurisdictions, find that multiple agencies
are reaching for their wallets. Collectively, voters preoccupied
with their day-to-day problems may take a while to catch on, but
they are not stupid. When voters see what all these tax increase
proposals will actually cost them, they are likely to respond with
anger, and the politicians’ tax increase schemes may end up looking
like a hundred drowning men reaching for a life raft built for ten
— they will all go down.
The average taxpayer understands something the consultants and
politicians have overlooked, that this level of taxation is
unreasonable. Ironically this may have been best expressed by
Senator Obama himself, who, in his acceptance speech stated,
"Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is
raise taxes on the middle-class."