In a bunker somewhere in Sacramento, a secret committee meeting of state power brokers is taking place. Let’s listen in as the chairman addresses the members:
“Welcome to this week’s meeting of the ‘Don’t Leave Them With Two Nickels to Rub Together Committee.’ It is good to see that the public employee union bosses, who represent the highest paid government workers in all 50 states, are in attendance. They are the heart and soul of our movement. Then of course, we must acknowledge those newspaper editors from some major papers, who work so hard to help our cause of increasing the tax burden on average Californians. Special mention and thanks must go to the representatives of the Los Angeles Times, a publication whose institutionalized hostility to Proposition 13 is legendary — it hardly seems like it has been 35 years since Howard Jarvis labeled your paper ‘the enemy of the people.’ Also, I want to give a shout out to the several leftist professors from taxpayer-supported universities who have joined us today. And lest I forget, our special interest enablers in the private sector, most of whom profit directly from government spending, are here today to lend their support.
“As you know, our number one target continues to be Proposition 13 and its protections for taxpayers. Although we have been successful in making California number one in state sales tax, gasoline tax, and in income tax rates, we rank only 15th in property taxes. This, I know you all agree, is an outrage. California, must always strive to be number one.
“Of course, we are aware that Proposition 13, which limits annual increases in property tax bills, and requires that voters have the final say on new local taxes, is very popular with the public at large. Surveys show that it is at least as popular as it was when it received almost two-thirds of the vote in 1978.
“However, we have a clever plan to increase the tax burden on all taxpayers, but especially homeowners, without ever having to admit that we support higher taxes. Our objective is to reduce the two-thirds vote needed to approve new per parcel taxes, taxes that can be used for any purpose and are imposed over and above the regular property tax. We also want to make it easier to raise sales taxes that everyone pays, to support our favorite projects.
“Our strategy is to promote the lowering of the vote required to approve new taxes by saying we are just trying to make voting on tax increases more democratic. This way, we can appear to have clean hands, while making it much easier to increase the tax burden on average folks.
“This week, a number of our favorite bills will be heard by our friends in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee. These bills would make it easier to approve new property taxes for school facilities, new bonds for libraries — paid for through higher property taxes — new sales taxes to fund community and economic development projects, and new sales taxes for transportation projects. And you will be pleased to learn that we have many more bills like these in the pipeline.
“On a final note, as we move forward with our agenda, let’s remember, the best way to get more out of taxpayers is to make voters think someone else will be paying the higher taxes. Look at Proposition 30 as a template for further success. We were able to convince many voters that the burden would be borne by the wealthy, although it also increased sales taxes on everyone. So, let’s stay focused on divisive taxes, like parcel taxes, that appear to impact only property owners, even though renters, too, will pay through higher rents. And as we work to undermine Proposition 13, let’s remember to keep repeating our talking points.
“When we attack the two-thirds vote, tell the folks that we are not trying to raise their taxes, ‘We are just making the process more democratic.’ And when new taxes appear on the ballot, focus on gaining the support of those who are unlikely, or who believe they are unlikely, to have to pay. Just say, ‘The tax burden will fall on someone else who should be paying their fair share.’ Finally, if voters remain unconvinced, say, ‘It’s for the children.’
“This week’s meeting of the ‘Don’t Leave Them With Two Nickels to Rub Together Committee’ is adjourned. Let’s go out and redouble our efforts to undermine the taxpayer protections provided by Proposition 13.”
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.