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John Campbell

John Campbell (R-Irvine) is an Assemblyman representing the 70th District in Orange County. Mr. Campbell is the Vice-Chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee. He is the only CPA in the California State legislature and recently received a national award as Freshman Republican Legislator of the Year. He represents the cities of Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Irvine, Costa Mesa, Tustin, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Woods and Lake Forest. He can be reached through his Assembly website and through the website for his California Senate campaign.

An Immaculate Tax Increase
The Car Tax and its phantom trigger

[John Campbell] 6/20/03

Car Tax: Some months ago, the Governor and the State Controller announced that the car tax could triple under a "trigger mechanism" in the law which would allow this tax increase without any vote and without anyone "pulling" the trigger. It has been called the "immaculate tax increase" since it will just happen with no human action.

Many people have questioned the legal rationale in this tortured ruling. In early April, a columnist from the Sacramento Bee asked me "if certain circumstances make the tax trigger up, what circumstances make the tax trigger back down?" Good question, I thought. So, I wrote a letter on April 4th asking the Governor's Director of Finance, the State Controller and Legislative Counsel (the attorneys for the Legislature) that very question.

To date, neither the Governor nor the Controller have responded. But the Legislative Counsel did. And what they had to say is a bombshell. Remember that it is the Legislative Counsel that writes all the bills for members of the Legislature. So they are opining on a law that they wrote. They said:

  1. There is no "immaculate" trigger. Any trigger must be pulled by affirmative action of the State Controller.
  2. The tax cannot go up unless the state is literally out of cash and cannot pay its bills. The State just borrowed $11 Billion and therefore has plenty of cash now.
  3. The cash flow of the state must be reviewed monthly and the tax adjusted back down or up based on the bank account of the state at that time.

What does all this mean? The Governor's plan to immaculately triple your car tax perhaps as soon as tomorrow is not right and it is not legal. If he does that, your car tax will triple starting in September. The Controller is the only one who has any authority to increase it and that authority would only exist with the state in what is effectively an insolvent condition which we are not in as a result of the recent borrowing. The idea that this tax rate could change every month is an unworkable administrative nightmare in addition to being completely inequitable. Can you imagine your tax tripling and your neighbors being half that because his bill came in a different month?

The Governor and the Controller should give up this silly idea of tripling a tax without a vote of anyone. It is wrong and it is not legal. And if they proceed, we'll see them in court. And we'll win. But in the meantime, you'll be paying a higher tax and the Democrats will be spending us even further into the abyss with tax money that they don't get to keep.

More fuel on the fire of a populist uprising against a one party government that believes it is above the law and is drunk with its own power.



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