Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist
Platt Liebau is a senior member of the CaliforniaRepublic.org
editorial board. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator
based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel,
Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs
throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University
and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the
first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Slap the Greedy Hand
Authorizing Local Taxes Is Just Plain Wrong
by Carol Platt Liebau 6/9/03
greatest governor, Ronald Reagan, once observed that a government
with the power to give the people anything
they wanted was also a government with the power to take away
everything they had.
done the former, the California legislature seems hard at work
the latter. Just last Wednesday, the Assembly
approved AB 1690, which will authorize cities and counties to
join the state and federal authorities in placing a clammy, grabby
governmental hand into every taxpayer’s pocket. Because
the bill was co-written by John Burton, president pro tem of
the Senate, rest assured that it will get a full and enthusiastic
hearing in the tax-friendly body over which he presides.
already pay $130 billion in taxes – and has
lost more than 285,000 manufacturing jobs since January of 2001.
Yet many state legislators are so greedy or so stupid that they
would blithely add another layer to the tax burden already borne
by California businesses and citizens. Local income taxes will
simply mean that people who actually pay taxes will simply leave
the localities that impose them – just as California businesses
and citizens have increasingly moved to more taxpayer-friendly
western states like Nevada, Idaho, Utah and Texas. When will
California’s “leaders” understand that a state
or a city with a hounded, diminished tax base will never enjoy
a healthy economy?
their lack of compassion for ordinary taxpayers, the pro-tax
legislators in Sacramento are certainly cunning.
They apparently understand that those of us paying their salaries
are considerably less enthusiastic about tax increases than they
are. Hence the structure of the bill – specifically designed
to evade the requirements of Proposition 13.
Professional Firefighters are the “godfathers” behind
this bill, and – coincidence? – AB 1690 requires
that any locality imposing the tax simultaneously increase funding
for public safety services. This increase wouldn’t be straightforwardly
appropriated from new local tax revenues, of course. That would
constitute a “special tax,” subject to a two-thirds
vote under Proposition 13. Instead, the bill contemplates a little
paying one’s locality
directly, taxpayers would instead pay the Franchise Tax Board,
as they do with their state taxes. The money derived from the
imposition of a local tax would then be transferred to the appropriate
locality as discretionary funds, not specifically earmarked for
public safety (and therefore not a “special tax” subject
to Proposition 13). But – and here’s the kicker! – every
taxing locality would be required to transfer half of every dollar
raised through the local tax to enhance public safety programs.
So, suddenly, the Professional Firefighters would enjoy increased
funding, and – better and better (for them!) – their
increases would be locked in with a specific formula, all without
the inconvenient encumbrance of having to follow Proposition
13, voted in by California’s citizens.
AB 1690 is
as dishonest as it is greedy. Rather than being willing to
seek the public
safety increases on their merits, the California Professional
Firefighters and their toadies in the legislature are seeking
a convoluted means to assure themselves of never-ending funding,
with nary a thought to the fiscal well-being of the Californians
they are supposedly dedicated to serving. And, of course, too
many of our legislative rulers sense that they derive their power
only from their ability to redistribute our tax money – so
whatever the impact, nothing is too great to curb their desire
to extract ever more funds from those unfortunate enough to be
governed by them.
debate and discussion, should it be determined that local public
programs need more money,
legislators should obtain it first through one straightforward
means: stopping the fraud and abuse that poisons so many of the
programs they have authorized and appropriated. The California
Taxpayer’s Association reports that more than $10 billion
dollars have been lost to fraud and abuse in state and local
governments over the past four years.
grab once again for our pocketbooks, let the legislators figure
of Corrections had to pay an additional $200 million in overtime
for replacement corrections workers, once its employees had a
contract that inhibited their superiors from challenging their
use of sick days. And perhaps California’s state employees
could forgo two of the 13 paid holidays they receive over the
course of a year – two more than the national average,
with a cost to the state of $9.1 million in state overtime for
each (not even counting lost productivity). That’s just
America’s first Chief Justice, John Marshall, once
wrote, “The power to tax involves the power to destroy.” So
whom should we trust? Ronald Reagan and John Marshall, or John
Burton and the California Professional Firefighters?
no choice. California is too great a state, with a people too
hardworking and generous, to be smacked by the greedy hand
of a state legislature that is out of control. AB 1690 must be
CRO columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst and
commentator based in San Marino, CA.