Deliberative Poll Says: Waste Not, Want Not

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

Results of the Deliberative Poll from a couple of months ago
were revealed yesterday and they seemed to track the feelings Californians
express in more standardized polling.

The poll was conducted over a weekend in Torrance with 400
citizens, a sampling of the voter population, taking part. The participants
were polled at the beginning of the exercise. Over the course of the weekend
they took part in breakout groups, meeting occasionally as a committee of the whole
to hear discussions on four separate issues from experts in State-Local Reform,
the Initiative Process, Representation and Taxation & Fiscal Policy. They
were then polled at the end of the weekend.

For the purposes of this column, I will focus on the
Taxation and Fiscal Policy section since I served on the expert panel in that
category.

A message gleaned from the polls on the taxation issue might
be: Waste Not, Want Not.

The voters from the beginning of the poll to the end
declared that government wastes money. They concluded that four out of every
ten dollars is wasted, an extraordinarily high figure.

If the voters think that much money is wasted then why would
they give more money to government? Apparently, they do not want to.

On the whole, they were adverse to new taxation. Of the
eight methods to raise revenue only one received majority support. The voters
at the deliberative poll seemed to be saying 
if you stop wasting our money
you won’t need more of it.

The one issue that garnered majority support was
"re-assessing non-residential property more frequently than now." Although it
did not get more than 50-percent support there was also a dramatic increase
from the beginning of the session to the end for lowering the two-thirds vote
to raise taxes to 55%. At the start of the poll lowering the vote requirement
received 32%, at the end – 50%.

That seems a strange outcome since most tax proposals were
opposed. Over the last three decades, four times voters have had an opportunity
to vote on a two-thirds for legislative tax increases and have endorsed it
every time, including passing Prop 26 on taxes/fees less than a year ago.

I was not part of the discussions in the break away sessions
on these issues and don’t know how the pros and cons were laid out.

From the beginning, the deliberative poll emphasized raising
taxes or making it easier to raise taxes in the tax section of the poll. As I
recall, of the original 17 or so questions that had been formulated for the
poll on taxation, about 14 were designed to raise taxes or make it easier to
raise taxes by lowering the voter requirements to pass a tax.

The question about re-assessing commercial property might
get attention on top of the news coverage last week that Los Angeles Mayor
Antonio Villaraigosa encouraged a split roll property tax for business.

However, despite the results of the poll, I expect they
would be trumped by California’s unemployment rate. Raising property taxes on
businesses will hit small and minority owned businesses hardest. These job
creators would undoubtedly be adding to the unemployment rolls or would not
take a potential worker off of unemployment if they got hit with a new property
tax.

Once the reality of a split roll set in with voters, it
would probably end up like the other tax questions on the poll – with less than
majority support.

You can find all the poll results here.

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