to Be Inundated with Disinformation
And the rains came…
[by Jon Coupal] 1/3/06
past week of storms, once again, puts the spotlight on flood
control in California. This, along with the historic hurricane
damage sustained in other parts of the nation, has moved infrastructure
issues to the front burner. And a big part of addressing flood
control is the question of how we pay for it. As the flood
waters recede from California's rivers and streams, let's hope
that irrational and panicked thinking recede as well.
a recent editorial in the Sacramento Bee was not a positive
addition to the debate because it was based on patently erroneous
information. The editorial called for the amendment of Proposition
218 to exempt flood control assessments from its provisions
because such assessments require a two-thirds vote. This simply
is not true. Benefit assessment financing under Proposition
218 requires a simple majority vote of property owners. Indeed,
such votes occur frequently and a major flood control assessment
was approved in Sacramento just a few years ago.
Coupal 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]
Proposition 218, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, was approved
by California voters in 1996. It was intended to close several
loopholes in Proposition 13 that allowed local governments to
impose taxes and other exactions on property owners with no vote
at all. Proposition 218 does not prohibit any specific type of
tax or levy; it merely provides that when local and regional
governments seek revenue increases they must first get permission
from those who have to pay.
Benefit assessment financing has been employed in California
for more than 100 years. It is used to finance improvements that
directly benefit property owners. Flood control projects clearly
fall in this category and nothing in Proposition 218 prohibits
assessments for them.
That Proposition 218 does not require flood control assessments
to be approved by a two-thirds vote is clear from an assessment
approved by Sacramentans in the year 2000. The Sacramento Area
Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) proposed the assessment pursuant
to Proposition 218 and property owners were properly informed
that the assessment would be imposed if approved with a majority
vote. Despite requiring a mere majority, the assessment passed
by a remarkable 82% margin.
Prop 218 is designed to give property owners a direct say in
imposing proper assessments on real property, and this can be
done with a weighted simple majority vote of the property owners.
If local agencies want to impose an assessment for flood control
purposes, they can do so with property owner approval. If they
make a strong case to property owners and justify the planned
projects with a detailed expenditure plan, property owner approval
is virtually a sure thing.
The hurricanes, and the ill-advised responses from government
at all levels to them, can provide a valuable lesson to California.
Throwing money at pretend -- not real -- solutions does more
damage than simply wasting money. It results in citizens believing
that a problem has been addressed when it has not.
citizens in the decisions for flood control infrastructure
financing, within the existing requirements of Proposition
is far more likely to result in rational, better thought-out
solutions to flood control than merely having politicians and
the myriad of special interests dictating how we spend infrastructure
dollars. The consequences of doing otherwise are severe. Just
ask the citizens of New Orleans. CRO
2006 Howard Jarvis Taxpayers association