For anyone who saw the Academy Award winning movie the Sting, in which two con artists scheme to trick a gangster out of his money, they would remember that the writer, David Ward, created the screenplay in chapters. Titles were put up on the screen before certain segments of the movie for the audience to follow the development of the story. One title early on read: The Set Up. A later one read: The Sting.
We might adopt those titles for California when the legislature comes back to begin debating certain bills next January that would sting the taxpayers – lowering the two-thirds vote to raise local taxes to a fifty-five percent majority vote.
The Set-Up has already occurred. Governor Jerry Brown’s effort to create more local control has brought us prison realignment and school Local Control Funding Formula.
Moving responsibility to local governments will inevitably be followed by local governments call for more resources to deal with the responsibilities. We’ve already heard from local government about financial concerns state moves have caused.
Enter the Sting. There are a slew of bills that would lower a two-thirds vote for local special taxes – meaning tax revenue to fund a specific purpose. Many of the taxes they want to change would be parcel taxes on property.
Here’s the list of bills the legislature will be considering in the new year that would lower the two-thirds vote to fifty-five percent.
- SCA 3 (Leno) for educational entities
- SCA 4 (Liu) for transportation projects
- SCA 7 (Wolk) for libraries
- SCA 9 (Corbett) for transportation
- SCA 11 (Hancock) all special taxes for local government
It should be noted if any of the measures pass in the legislature the voters in a statewide election must approve them.
However, there is another way for local government to think about funding their many different responsibilities if they truly believe tax increases are the answer. They can raise general taxes with a simple majority vote of the people. They don’t have to change the law to do that.