Let the Light Shine In

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Since the founding of our republic there has been tension between
citizens who want to know about the conduct of their
representatives, and those in government who would prefer to do
their business in secret.

Secrecy is not always bad policy. Few would argue that Franklin
Roosevelt should have revealed the invasion plans for Normandy prior
to D-Day.

However, the responsibilities of most politicians are mundane and it
is hard to argue that the public should be denied knowledge of how
efficiently they are managing and spending taxpayers’ dollars.

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Taxpayers: Victims of the Obama Factor?

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

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
service.

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The Pork Express

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Note: This post was co-authored with Tom Schatz, President of Citizens Against Government Waste

For six years in a row, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and
the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation (HJTF) have published the
California Piglet Book to spotlight waste, fraud and abuse of
taxpayers’ dollars. Modeled after the Pig Book, an annual analysis
of Federal spending conducted by CAGW, we have found the state
Piglet an excellent method of embarrassing California officials into
better performance and a higher respect for the public’s money.

In a target rich environment, this year we have chosen to focus our
attention on the misuse of public transportation dollars.

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My take on the CCPOA Recall Effort

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

This is a stupid distraction. That is the only way to describe the latest effort by the prison guards union to recall Governor Schwarzenegger.

Make no mistake, we have our issues with the Governor based on legitimate policy disputes. He believes that tax increases will help California and we don’t. But what is needed is grownups dealing with the many crises facing California like grownups.

Does anyone really think this action by CCPOA won’t be seen for what it is – a desperate and transparent attempt at political extortion? Unlike the recall of Gray Davis, this effort has absolutely no grassroots support that we can see. It is motivated by a greedy public employee union trying to get a massive pay hike notwithstanding California’s precarious financial situation.

One thing’s for sure. CCPOA’s limited supply of sympathy from the taxpaying public is about to disappear entirely.

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Going Off The Rail – Prop 1A Title & Summary are Deceptive

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association will be in court today seeking an
expedited hearing schedule for its suit challenging the ballot material for
Proposition 1A which seeks voter approval for $9.9 billion for a
controversial "high speed rail" system.

Proposition 1A was placed on the ballot just last week as a replacement for
Proposition 1. Both would authorize a massive $9.9 billion bond as seed
money for a controversial "high speed rail" project from San Francisco to
Los Angles. But the switch from Prop 1 to Prop 1A will cost the state over
$5 million just for the supplemental ballot – and serious questions have
been raised about whether the Secretary of State even has enough time to
comply with federal laws designed to permit overseas military personnel to
vote on the election.

Proposition 1A is flawed both procedurally and substantively. The manner in
which the title and summary have been prepared, the false and misleading
information in the ballot material and the fact that this project will be
one of the biggest boondoggles in American history render Prop 1A a taxpayer
nightmare.

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Economic Suicide

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Rumors of a budget deal are one thing. But the vast majority of the Republicans in the Legislature have no desire to be participants in the assisted economic suicide of California. New figures on California’s tax burden are out from the Tax Foundation; California’s tax burden is now up to sixth highest in the nation. Republicans know that they were not elected to move California down the road to higher taxes and more burdensome regulations coupled with an abject failure to address waste and fraud.

In a prior budget battle, a handful of Republican legislators signed off on a Gray Davis budget and were rewarded with severe electoral retaliation. (Think Johannessen, Briggs, etc.) But this year, all but a handful of GOP legislators believe – and rightfully so – that a tax increase will solve absolutely nothing and, in both the short and long term, inflict irreparable damage to the Golden State.

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New Taxes Are Not The Answer to Budget Woes

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

It has been over a month since the constitutional deadline passed to approve a new budget and members of the Legislature have gone on vacation. Apparently, not many Californians believe lawmakers have earned this time off – a recent Field Poll shows only 27% regard their performance positively, while 57% have a negative view.

While state representatives have decided they would rather go to the beach than wrestle with the state budget crisis, California families are not having nearly as much fun. They are being slammed by increased costs for everything from food to gasoline. Many are struggling to hold onto their homes. There can be little doubt why three out of four Californians say we are headed in the wrong direction.

But things can get a lot worse if the majority in the Legislature get their way. These politicians want to increase the burden on California taxpayers by $9 billion, which averages out to $1,000 in new taxes for a family of four.

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Utah Is Laughing

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Last month I was invited to address a joint tax committee of the
Utah Legislature to discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of
various methods of taxing real property. Specifically, Utah is
considering adopting an "acquisition value" based system — such as
Proposition 13 — to replace its traditional "current value" system
that taxes property based on what it is worth now rather than the
purchase price.

Although the legislators had lots of questions, I was amazed at
their level of knowledge, their business acumen and their concern
for taxpayers. More than that, they were unfailingly polite and none
of them tried to set me up for a "gotcha" moment.

Having testified before the Utah Legislature once before several
years ago — and having a similar enjoyable experience — I thanked
the committee’s co-chairs for the invitation and noted that the
experience was different from some of my appearances before the
California Legislature.

At the mention of the California Legislature, several members of the
committee laughed. The Chairman grinned and said that "we love the
California Legislature — they do more for Utah business development
than anyone else.
"

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Prop 1 is simply not ready for Prime Time

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Few proposals on the November ballot make as little sense as Prop 1, the so-called High Speed Rail initiative. Why is Prop 1 so bad? Let’s count the ways:

First, Prop. 1 is a boondoggle that will cost taxpayers nearly $20 billion dollars in principal and interest. Taxpayers will foot this bill – it’s not “free money.” According to the measure (Article 3, Section 2704.10) “…the full faith and credit of the state of California is hereby pledged for the punctual payment of both principal of, and interest on, the bonds….” This measure will take $20 billion dollars out of the general fund over the life of the bonds. That’s over $2,000 for an average family of four!

Second, California can’t afford higher budget deficits. With our budget crisis, billions in red ink, pending cuts to health care, the poor, parks and schools, now is not the time to add another $20 billion in state debt and interest. The state already has over $100 billion dollars in voter approved bonds and our bond rating is already among the worst in the nation and this could lower it even further.

Third, there are much better uses for taxpayer dollars. California has higher priorities than this $20 billion dollar boondoggle. What would $20 billion buy?

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Timing Couldn’t Be Worse to Float Tax Increase

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Yesterday was a day of contrasts at the Capitol with a vocal rally of taxpayers chanting "No New Taxes" while democratic leadership called for $11.5 billion in new taxes. Perata’s call for massive tax hikes is nothing more than brazen. But in one respect, the establishment of clear lines of demarcation benefits the Republicans. Had the democrats actually proposed something reasonable, the Republicans might find themselves in the familiar territory of being on the defensive. But 11 billion plus in new taxes has even resulted in snickers from the Capitol press corps.

The timing couldn’t be worse to float such a silly idea – didn’t the democrats just see the polling where most Californians thought that the lion’s share of the action should be in cuts, not revenue increases?

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