Assembly Bill 8 was signed by Governor Brown and became law. This is horrible news for taxpayers because California motorists will now be paying $2.3 billion in additional taxes and charges. Adding insult to injury, taxpayers will find their hard earned dollars being used to subsidize programs such as the purchase of all electric cars, like the Tesla that, even with the taxpayer provided discount, can be afforded only by a handful of wealthy individuals. Money will also be lavished on the hydrogen network designed to service vehicles of which, about 250 currently exist.
The bill for ordinaryCalifornia drivers may not be immediately noticeable because these “surcharges” are buried in vehicle registration and charges for the disposal of tires and other auto services. But they are there nonetheless and, like a death by a thousand cuts, working class Californians are paying for questionable programs that citizens in other states simply don’t have to suffer.
With all the burdens Sacramento imposes on taxpayers — we already have the highest state sales tax in all 50 states, the highest marginal income tax rate and the highest gas tax — these additional taxes may not get much attention from the general public — at least not at first.
But the real problem for taxpayers with the approval of this kind of legislation runs much deeper than its immediate cost because it was passed in the Legislature using the technique of bribing unconvinced lawmakers to vote yes by offering the prospect of reduced regulation on businesses important to those lawmakers’ districts. Nine Republicans, who usually put taxpayers’ interests first, were persuaded to support AB 8 by the lure of reduced regulations.
While the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association believes that business is shouldering an unreasonable burden of regulations, especially compared to other states, these regulations should be judged individually on their merits. The offer of reform should not be used by the majority party to solicit payoffs — higher taxes — in return for doing the right thing.
However, against type, it is Republicans in the Capitol who provided the votes to guarantee this bad legislation became law. And it is not the first time. Sadly, we are sensing a trend. Last year, the Legislature placed a new one percent tax on the sale of lumber, with four Republicans providing the votes to put the measure over the top. Here, the bribe was that some restrictions on the timber industry would be lifted.
At this point, it is important to note the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is non-partisan. More than a third of members are Democrats and in the past taxpayers have had the support of some Democratic lawmakers who recognized that taxpayers are the backbone of a prosperous economy. However, the majority party in the Legislature is now dominated by those who want to raise more revenue and seem willing to use any stratagem, no matter how sleazy, to get it.
To be fair, a majority of Republican legislators continue to stand firm. Only a few have drunk the “higher taxes in return for regulatory reform” Kool-Aid. But the question must be asked of all lawmakers: “Who do you serve?” Unfortunately some Republicans, on whom taxpayers rely to defend their interests, are apparently feeling diminished by their minority status and are so desperate for the attention that, over time, they are forgetting who they serve.
But trading permanent tax hikes for what may prove very temporary regulatory relief is a deal with the devil. For a handful of Republicans, their vote for AssemblyBill 8 may have reflected the best of intentions. But good intentions only make for a suitable paving surface to a certain location better left unmentioned.
Blue State Lawmakers Make Taxpayers Blue
The terms “BlueState” and “RedState” were coined about a dozen years ago by journalist Tim Russert and were based on the colored maps being used by the television networks to graphically display presidential election results. Although originally based on the arbitrary decision to label Republican voting states red, and those supporting the Democratic candidate blue, these colors have also come to represent liberal (blue) and conservative (red).
The latest Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association Legislative Report Card demonstrates that, in terms of state representation, California continues to be the bluest of blue. But while Californiahas a reputation as being ultra-liberal on a host of issues, for purposes of the HJTA Report Card, we focused solely on how legislative votes were cast on tax issues.
Taken as a whole, the Report Card shows that a preponderance of lawmakers actively support the redistribution of wealth, not from one citizen to another, but from all citizens to the government. This allows the majority party in the Legislature to continue to reward their most active backers, the government employee unions. Government employees in California are the highest paid in all 50 states and it is no secret that money to meet the payroll must come from taxpayers.
The HJTA Legislative Report Card is designed to help Californians gauge how their state representatives are actually performing on taxpayer-related issues. For the 2013 legislative year, 20 bills were used to evaluate and grade voting records. Practically all of these bills deal with tax increases — often masquerading as fees — or direct assaults on Proposition 13 and Proposition 218, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act.
There is no question that the consequences of what occurs “Under the Dome” are very real and personal for average taxpayers. For example, decisions made by legislators in the last five years have helped ensure we have the highest income, sales, and gas taxes in the nation. These are facts most lawmakers fail to mention when discussing their voting records. The letter grades allow Californians to see past the politicians’ self-promoting press releases and glossy campaign mailers touting their record in Sacramento.
Of the 120 members of the Legislature, three times as many (79) earned an “F” as those who were awarded “25” an “A.” This is more alarming when it is considered that many of these lawmakers will be safely ensconced in their offices for another 11 years due to voter approval last year of an extension in term limits. And with increasing numbers of legislators from both parties capitulating to pressure from special interest lobbyists and government employee union leaders, the environment for taxpayers in Sacramento could get a lot worse before it gets better.
However, there are some lights in the Capitol that are still burning bright. Nine lawmakers achieved a perfect score by standing with taxpayers through thick and thin. Senators Anderson, Gaines, Knight, Nielsen and Wyland, and Assembly Members Dahle, Donnelly, Gains and Jones provided heroic service to taxpayers in 2013.
If you want to have influence on their future votes, we recommend you contact your representatives to thank or excoriate them as you see fit.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.