Jon Coupal- Columnist
is an attorney and president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers
Association -- California's largest taxpayer organization with
offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. [go to website] [go
to Coupal index]
Bracing for New Attacks
anti-taxpayer initiatives on the way...
[Jon Coupal] 3/19/04
Taxpayers throughout California are relieved that Proposition
56, a public employee union-backed measure to make it much easier
to raise taxes, was soundly defeated.
This attack on Proposition 13's requirement that new or higher
state taxes receive a two-thirds vote of the Legislature was
rejected 34 percent to 66 percent, almost the identical margin
by which voters approved Proposition 13 in 1978.
However, the celebration is restrained. Proposition 56 was only
the beginning of a renewed onslaught on the California taxpayer.
Public employee union leaders are using their members' dues to
come after taxpayers like major leaguers on steroids pursuing
the homerun record. Record spending on ballot measures seeking
new taxes is a virtual certainty.
Already the California Teachers Association-backed measure to
increase property taxes on businesses large and small -- including
apartment buildings -- is being circulated for the November ballot.
To get an idea of what is to come, it is instructive to look
back at the campaigns waged on behalf of the last two statewide
measures to wring more from taxpayers. Proposition 39, which
passed in 2000 and made it easier to raise taxes on homeowners
to pay for school bonds, and the just defeated Proposition 56
had a great deal in common. Millions of dollars were spent to
play up superficial but attractive sounding features while never
mentioning increased taxes. But tax increases were at the heart
When Howard Jarvis campaigned for Proposition 13 he was blunt
about the need to cut taxes and the waste in government. Love
him or hate him -- and there are many in both camps -- he made
his goals clear and his honesty and integrity were generally
Today campaigns for ballot measures begin with high priced consultants
who are wizards at making the unpalatable appear appetizing.
Clearly many of these spin doctors missed instruction when they
were kids on the importance of telling the truth. To them, a
lie is only bad if it is not believable.
In the case of Proposition
39, it was promoted as being all about "accountability" because
the idea of accountability fares well in voter surveys and
focus groups. Proposition 39's
sole purpose was to make it easier to pass school bonds that
property owners are exclusively obligated to repay, but backers
knew that saying they wanted to raise taxes would be the kiss
of death. To distract voters from seeing that Proposition 39
would lower the traditional two-thirds vote to pass local school
bonds to 55 percent, they wrote in all kind of cosmetic accountability
including annual audits of bond funds, and a prohibition against
using bond money for salaries, even though both provisions were
already part of existing law.
However, this allowed backers to spend nearly $25 million on
television advertising touting the already existing accountability
Wealthy contributors to Proposition 39 were told that they could
expect a $20 billion return on their investment. In this one
case backers were honest. In fact, they understated the result.
Since the beginning of 2001, nearly $29 billion in new local
school bonds have been approved and many homeowners are already
feeling the pinch.
Nothing succeeds like
success and this "coat the poison
pill with sugar" approach became the template for the campaign
to pass Proposition 56. Surveys revealed that the two-thirds
vote requirement to raise taxes is very popular, but the Legislature
is not. So consultants came up with a plan to make it look as
if Proposition 56 was actually an attack on lazy and irresponsible
lawmakers and it would make them "accountable," a word
we've seen before. Anyone with a radio, or a television or a
mail box was subjected to the public employee union leadership's
deceitful $16 million campaign to gain easier access to taxpayers'
in the spirit of the axiom, "fool me
once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me," saw through
the latest scam to raise taxes and overwhelmingly rejected it.
this result is encouraging, the future is uncertain. It is
a sure bet that
at this moment Machiavellian consultants
and deep-pocketed special interests are working together on a
new "witches brew" intended to hex already overburdened
taxpayers into opening their wallets. CRO
2004 Howard Jarvis Taxpayers association