Tag Archives: California Taxes

California Officials Avoid ‘p-word’ When Selling Higher Taxes to Voters

Why are officials so unwilling to tell their voters (tax donkeys) that pension costs are the underlying factor in their requests for tax increases?

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While public and media attention to this week’s primary election focused – understandably so – on contests for governor, U.S. senator and a handful of congressional seats, there were other important issues on Californians’ ballots.

One, which received scant attention at best, was another flurry of local government and school tax and bond proposals.

The California Taxpayers Association counted 98 proposals to raise local taxes directly, or indirectly through issuance of bonds that would require higher property taxes to repay.

The proposed taxes on legal marijuana sales and other retail sales and “parcel taxes” on pieces of real estate were particularly noteworthy for how they were presented to voters.

Most followed the playbook that highly paid strategists peddle to local officials, advising them to promise improvements in popular services, such as police and fire protection and parks, and avoid any mention of the most important factor in deteriorating fiscal circumstances – the soaring cost of public employee pensions.

City, county and school district officials howl constantly, albeit mostly in private, that ever-increasing, mandatory payments to the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) are driving some entities to the brink of insolvency.

However, those officials are just as consistently unwilling to tell their voters that pension costs are the basic underlying factor in their requests for tax increases.

Why?

Tying tax increases to pensions, rather than popular services, not only would make voters less likely to vote for them but make public employee unions less willing to pony up campaign funds to sell the tax increases to voters. It is, in effect, a conspiracy of silence.

This week’s local tax and bond measures are just a tuneup for what will likely be a much larger batch on the November ballot.

It’s a well-established axiom of California politics that low-turnout elections, such as a non-presidential primary in June, are not as friendly to tax proposals as higher-turnout general elections, such as the one in November. Primaries tend to draw older white voters who often shun taxes, while general elections have younger and more ethnically diverse electorates easily conditioned through social media to believing they might receive a few crumbs from voting in favor of socialist wealth transfer tax schemes.

As local officials make plans to place those proposals on the November ballot, a bill making its way through the Legislature could skew local tax politics even more.

Senate Bill 958 would allow one school district, Davis Unified, to exempt its own employees from paying the $620 per year parcel tax that its voters approved two years ago.

The Senate approved SB 958 on a 24-19 vote last month, sending it to the Assembly. It’s being carried by Sen. Bill Dodd, a Napa Democrat whose district includes Davis.

The bill’s rationale is that housing is so expensive in Davis that teachers and other school employees cannot afford to live there, and that exempting them from the parcel tax would, at least in theory, make housing more affordable.

However, if SB 958 becomes law, it would set a dangerous precedent. It doesn’t take much imagination to see local government and school unions throughout the state demanding similar exemptions from new taxes with the threat, explicit or implicit, that they would refuse to finance tax measure campaigns.

The very people who benefit most from additional taxes by receiving higher salaries and/or better fringe benefits thus would be able to avoid paying those taxes themselves.

Source: The Mercury News

 

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California Moves One Step Closer To “Mileage Tax”; Could Require Tracking Your Cell Phone Movements

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Commuters make their way along the westbound 91 freeway

Just a few months after implementing a massive 60% hike in gasoline taxes, raising them from $0.297 per gallon to $0.417, the state of California is now one step closer to implementing a brand new tax that would charge drivers for each mile driven. 

As a quick example of how shockingly misguided such a piece of legislation would be, the logical conclusion here is that poor people who have been forced out of cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego due to rising rents would now be forced to incur yet another massive tax for simply commuting into city centers to do their jobs…in essence, in many cases, it would serve as a regressive tax on the poorest families…

So how did we get here?  It all started back in 2014 when California passed Senate Bill 1077 calling for a mileage tax.  The bill kicked off the California Road Charge Pilot Program which sought to design and test various strategies for implementing a mileage tax.

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Now, after 3 full years of studying various methodologies for tracking mileage, from requiring a “plug-in” for each vehicle to tracking your smart phone movements to more manual systems that would track odometers, the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA), according to a newly filed report is officially ready to declare a mileage tax ‘feasible’.  Here’s what they found:

The Road Charge Pilot Program successfully tested the functionality, complexity, and feasibility of the critical elements of this new potential revenue system – road charge – for transportation funding.

  • Manual options provide the highest degree of privacy and data security, but will in all likelihood be the most difficult to enforce, and could be costly to administer
  • Plug-in devices are the most reliable options, however as new technology emerges this methodology could be obsolete by the time a road charge program is adopted
  • More technologically advanced methods, such as the smartphone application with location services and the in-vehicle telematics show great promise, but need further refinement

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Of course, as State Senator Scott Wiener points out, a mileage tax will be a huge blow to all the folks that have been coaxed into electric vehicles over the years by tax subsidies which made them more affordable.  While those folks have been able to avoid gasoline taxes, part of the calculus that supposedly makes them “affordable”, they won’t be able to avoid a mileage tax.  PerCBS:

But it’s not just a question about money, it’s also a question about fairness.

State Senator Scott Wiener and others are saying that when it comes to road taxes, it’s time to start looking at charging you by the mile rather than by the gallon.

“If you own an older vehicle that is fueled by gas, you’re paying gas tax to maintain the roads. Someone who has an electric vehicle or a dramatically more fuel efficient vehicle is paying much less than you are. But they are still using the roads,” Wiener said.

“People are going to use less and less gas in the long run,” according to Wiener.

And less gas means less gas tax, less money for road repair and state employee benefits increases.

“We want to make sure that all cars are paying to maintain the roads,” Wiener said.

Yet another reason for California residents to promptly consider a move to Texas but please, leave your horrible voting habits that got you into this mess behind …

Source: ZeroHedge