New Poll on Prop 13

A just-completed survey of California voters shows that Proposition 13, the tax limitation measure approved by two-to-one in 1978, still has overwhelming support today.

The survey of 801 voters, conducted by Arnold Steinberg and Associates, reveals that 47.9 percent support Proposition 13 while 19.7 percent are opposed and 32.3 percent are undecided. When provided with information about what Proposition 13 does — placing
limits on annual property tax increases and requiring voter approval
of new local taxes — support swells to 60.4 percent in favor, 26.6 againstand 13 percent undecided.

These results are consistent with a recent Public Policy Institute
of Californian (PPIC) survey that showed 59 percent of respondents
thought Proposition 13 was a good for the state while 27 percent

View the survey questions and results here.

Proposition 13 works

Proposition 13, California’s famous property tax limitation initiative, will be put under the microscope this week as it reaches its 30th anniversary. Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and I, wrote a piece detailing the success of Prop 13 for the Los Angeles Times in response to Times Contributing Editor Bill Stall’s article last week calling for a "face-lift" for Proposition 13.

You can read Stall’s article here, and the Coupal-Fox article here.

Steinberg: Put $20 million in the bank if you’re serious about changing Prop 13

Senate pro-tem in-waiting Darrell Steinberg thinks any attempt to change Proposition 13 will require a $20 million dollar investment in a bank account — to indicate that interests are serious in changing the landmark taxpayer protection initiative with a ballot measure.

Steinberg told callers to a Courage Campaign Conference call that there is a desire to change the two-thirds vote and other provisions of Proposition 13. However, he acknowledges it would be difficult in the legislature unless all legislators understood there was a serious effort to make the change. How would he prefer they convey that? Open a bank account and put in $20 million to see the fight through to the end.

Is California headed down the same road as Detroit?

Sounding much like a gubernatorial candidate who wants to fix the way California government works, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner addressed an audience of a few hundred small business owners at the California Small Business Day in Sacramento.

California is headed down the same road as Detroit, and that’s not a good thing, Poizner said. Pointing out that, in 1950, Detroit was one of the richest areas in the country and led the world in automobile manufacturing, he said that people have fled Detroit in droves, the car industry has fallen behind Japan and Europe and Detroit registers on the bottom of nearly every measurable category of civic life.

Do a Tax Commission Right This Time

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass says California is a 21st Century economy laboring under a tax structure mostly built in the 1930s. She’s right. Improving the tax structure for the new era is the right thing to do.

Gold Rush era California economist Henry George had a saying about the tax structure that applies even today. "The mode of taxation is, in fact, quite as important as the amount. As a small burden badly placed may distress a horse that could carry with ease a much larger one properly adjusted, so a people may be impoverished and their power of producing wealth destroyed by taxation, which, if levied in any other way, could be borne with ease."

Speaker Bass said she will convene an independent commission to look at restructuring the tax system. Governor Schwarzenegger likes the idea and says he too will create a Tax Modernization Commission to make recommendations on better aligning the tax system to the modern economy.

A few random thoughts over the long weekend…..

Issues of the week: Porn tax and gay marriage. This is not your father’s and mother’s California. What happened to infrastructure and water? I guess we solved those problems.

The Recall of Senator Denham has been recalled by the measure’s sponsor, Senator Don Perata. At least he says he called it off. However, it is still on the ballot. Voters can still vote Denham out and a replacement in. Doesn’t this remind you of any number of government programs? The reason behind it is over; the author has abandoned it; but it goes on and on like the Energizer bunny.

Speaking of the Energizer bunny and also thinking about the AFLAC duck, the animal kingdom seems to have a positive branding effect on certain products. So what happened to the GOP elephant? Stories about branding and re-branding the GOP are popping up everywhere, including on the pages of Fox and Hounds Daily

The question is, does the GOP elephant need a personality re-do or does he have to get back being his old self. Maybe a session on the couch will help. Calling Dr. Doolittle.  Or is that the problem for the GOP in a nutshell: Do little?

Lesson One in the Initiative Game Playbook

If you are trying to defeat an initiative measure destined
for the ballot, lesson one in the initiative game playbook is to cause
confusion and uncertainty with the voters. One of the chief weapons to
accomplish this goal is to file a rival measure of your own on the same
subject. If both measures qualify for the ballot, the voters will have the extra
task of not only trying to decide if a reform is needed, but also which reform is the
best one to solve the problem the measures are intended to address.

Once the campaign attacks start flying on the supposed
hidden agendas or flaws in the rival measures, the voters often throw up their
hands in disgust and vote NO on both entries. That is often an acceptable
result for the supporters of the second measure. They don’t want Measure A to
pass. If Measure B, their own initiative, goes down in the process, they will
accept that collateral damage because their first priority is to defeat Measure

The Breathing Fee

Businesses will be forced to pay an annual fee based on greenhouse gases each emits after the Bay Area Air Quality Management District voted to levee the fee yesterday (see article here). The fee will hit every size business-big and small-at a rate of 4.4 cents per metric ton of carbon dioxide.

According to the Bay Area AQMD, which regulates smog in nine San Francisco Bay area counties, the proposal will rake in over one million dollars to pay for collecting and tracking data on greenhouse gases.

Let’s call this fee what it really is….a carbon tax.

The California Chamber Releases its List of Job Killer Bills

Here we go again….more bills listed by the California Chamber of Commerce that could damage economic recovery and cause the loss of jobs in California. For a number of years, the CalChamber has listed bills that Chamber officials believe will restrict business and force job loss. The list of this year’s bills can be found here

The Chamber cited 33 bills in six categories. The categories are Barriers to Affordable Housing; Costly Workplace Mandates; Economic Development Barriers; Expensive, Unnecessary  Regulatory Burdens; Fuel Price Increases; and Inflated Liability Costs.

Why press for more burdens when jobs are needed to boost the economy and overcome the government deficit? But it happens every year. The CalChamber has been an effective agent in fighting to maintain job growth in California by bringing attention to these job killer bills.

California’s Budget and the Presidential Election

Could a surprise flood of money appear in the California treasury due to the presidential campaign? It’s possible…although probably too late for this year’s budget even if the budget scrum rolls on through the summer.

An investment advisor in the Wall Street Journal looks into his crystal ball to determine what investors should do as they watch the battle for the White House. One key tax rate he suggests investors watch is the capital-gains tax rate.

Capital gains taxes have led to bulging California budgets in the past. The boom of 2000 was in great part due to high tech entrepreneurs cashing in on their capital gains.