In 1978, when voters enacted the landmark Proposition 13, Jerry Brown was governor and Democrats controlled both houses of the legislature. Voters passed Prop. 13 to send a message to government: stop destroying California with your endless grab on our money to cover up your inability to properly manage an affordable government.
Thirty three years later, Brown is governor again, Democrats control the legislature and the voters have rejected every single proposed statewide tax increase in the last several election cycles, including an embarrassing drubbing of Prop. 1A, a tax “extension” proposal involving the very same taxes that Brown, the Democrats and their labor allies are now demanding.
In music, a reprise is a return to a theme. When Gov. Brown reveals his May budget revision, known as the May revise, we can expect a return to several themes used by the tax takers seeking to extract ever more revenue from the taxpayers.
The first among these themes is to scare voters into thinking that the world will end without tax increases. This tactic is so common that, even at the national level, it has been given a name: The Washington Monument Syndrome. When the budget stalemates in Congress, the establishment threatens — or actually carries out the threat — to close down the Washington Monument, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Washington D.C. Of course, they won’t do anything about the $9,000 toilet seat purchased by the Pentagon or the billions given to Wall Street firms as part of the bailout.
In California, it is the same drill. The governor just announced the closure of 70 state parks. First, as anyone who uses state parks knows, they sit on some of the best real estate in California. It makes one wonder if, in the hands of a private concessionaire, wouldn’t these parks actually make money? While we don’t expect our park system to turn a profit, if properly managed, shouldn’t it at least break even?
With schools, they will continue their threats of layoffs and closures without, of course, talking about the long list of reforms that would actually give us a better educational product for less money. Something as simple as giving local school districts the ability to contract out non-educational functions like transportation and food service is an anathema to a party completely controlled by public employee unions. And heaven forbid we should expand school choice with more charter schools or — gasp — vouchers to parents of low-income students stuck in failing schools.
The problem for Gov. Brown and Democrats is that voters have heard this all before. With Prop. 13, UCLA economists ominously intoned in a TV ad against the measure that California would be plunged into a deep recession if 13 passed. The opposite happened.
Two years ago, the same interests warned of dire consequences if the tax increases set forth in Prop. 1A weren’t extended. The voters listened very carefully — and then rejected 1A by a 2-1 margin. The problem for the Democrats and their union backers is that no one believes them anymore.
Even last November, the education lobby pulled out all the stops to repeal tax breaks for those oh-so-evil corporations with Prop. 24 and, in so doing, ran ads showing children in classrooms. David Sanchez, the president of the California Teachers Association, signed the ballot argument in favor of 24. What happened? Prop. 24 lost and, just last week, Sanchez got his posterior thrown in jail for illegal activity during a CTA protest.
The very, very bad news for Brown, the Democrats in the legislature and their union backers is that voters are on to their game. Even they know it. That is why they want the tax increases without a vote of the people as promised by Brown because, they too, have seen the polling.
Whether it is 33 years ago, two years ago or today, those who live off tax dollars are playing the same theme music in the background. But those of us who pay the bills — the taxpayers — are singing a song of our own and the lyrics are simple and straightforward: Live within your means, don’t raise taxes and stop using school children as human shields.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Prop. 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.㕻