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  The Prop 13 Whining Continues
by Jon Coupal [attorney, activist] 6/13/07

It has been 29 years since the passage of Proposition 13 and the whining by public officials continues. Somewhere, Howard Jarvis is chuckling.

After the passage of Proposition 13, many believed it heralded a new day in the relationship between government and taxpayers, not just in California, but nationally. Even the President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, acknowledged the message sent by voters who overwhelmingly approved a measure to, in the words of Jarvis, "Ax your taxes."

Jon Coupal

Jon 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]

Jarvis had worked on tax reform in California for 15 years before achieving success with Proposition 13. During that time, he endured vitriol and vilification from those in the public sector. While campaigning for Proposition 13 he listened to self-serving lies by public officials about what would be the impact of the tax cutting measure -- no teachers, no police, and no firefighters. He was called crazy by some for challenging the established view that those in government know best.

Yes, Howard Jarvis was crazy, crazy like a fox. Of all the epithets hurled at Jarvis, no one ever said he was stupid.

When Proposition 13 passed, he knew the fight for taxpayer emancipation was not over. Those in government whose power and livelihood was dependent on the unfettered ability to tax and spend, would continue to attack Proposition 13's limitation on tax increases, and its requirement that people be allowed to vote on new local taxes. Proposition 13 stood foursquare in the way of unrestricted government growth paid for by private citizens and those in the public sector would not give up easily.

To defend against the constant attacks on Proposition 13 and the rights that taxpayers gained with its passage -- Jarvis said they would blame the eruption of Mt. St. Helens on Proposition 13 if they could -- he founded a professional organization, now called the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. And believe me, we have seen it all. Everything from the destruction of freeways during the Loma Prieta earthquake to the failure to convict O.J. Simpson has been blamed on Proposition 13. In the Legislature and through the initiative, we have seen continuous efforts to erode Proposition 13.

Just this year a bill was introduced in the Legislature that, if passed, would have altered Proposition 13 to make it easier to raise local taxes and to pass bonds that would increase the burden on homeowners. However, the bill's author, Jared Huffman, a freshman Assemblyman from San Rafael, was discouraged by the response from the public once the word got out and he has, at least for the moment, given up this attempt to undermine our favorite tax limiting initiative.

But still, the whining about Proposition 13 continues. In the last two weeks, we have seen three news articles, two about school art programs and one about libraries in the city of Redding, in which public officials have blamed Proposition 13 for financial problems. Apparently, they think that if they repeat this canard often enough, like a mantra, it will become fact. There can be no doubt that being anti-13 continues to be part of the culture of the bureaucracy. But after nearly three decades, it is time to face the facts.

Studies show that after adjusting for inflation and population growth, California governments at all levels have more money now than they did prior to the passage of Proposition 13. And yes, this includes schools. In constant dollars, we spend 30 percent more per pupil than we did 29 years ago. There is plenty of money to do the important tasks of government -- unless, of course, it is mismanaged through waste, fraud or abuse.

California ranks 8th out of 50 in per capita taxation, so there is also plenty of tax burden -- we are all doing our part and then some.

However, Proposition 13 may be lacking at least one element. When crafting the measure, Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann failed to mandate that public officials be wise and act in a responsible manner. And, oh yes, they also forgot to require an end to the common cold.

It really is time for public officials and bureaucrats throughout the state to stop whining and get back to work. CRO


copyright 2007 Howard Jarvis Taxpayers association



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