■ BY Jon Coupal / Contributed
In 2018, perhaps scared off by the specter of an upcoming election and the recall of state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, the California Legislature approved no new taxes for only the second time in the last six years. This was a radical departure from a year earlier, when three new taxes were approved.
However, that’s not to say that the Legislature didn’t try. New taxes on a host of items, including guns, fireworks, water and a sales tax on services were introduced without success. Next year, with tax-and-spend politicians holding a commanding two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the Legislature, the pressure to cave on new taxes will be even greater.
Considering what the future may hold, it is easy for taxpayers to question whether legislators will ever be held accountable. However, a useful tool to assist taxpayers is the annual legislative Report Card published by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Introduced back in 2007, the purpose of the report card is to document how lawmakers have voted on those issues most important to taxpayers.
Lawmakers tend to hide behind statements, sometimes of questionable truth, to justify their votes. The report card sets aside motives, back-room deal negotiations and party affiliations to focus on the one question that matters: did legislators stand up for the interests of taxpayers? While politicians may waver in their allegiance, the numbers don’t lie.
HJTA’s 2018 scorecard featured a list of 11 bills, which makes it easy to see who is either a friend to taxpayers or beholden to the special interests that pervade the state Capitol. Beyond some of the tax increases listed above, other bills include those that make it easier for local governments to increase sales taxes, and a bill that singled out one school district by making their teachers and administrators exempt from paying local education parcel taxes. Look for this exemption to be broadened across California in the years to come. Attacks on the initiative process are another common theme highlighted in the scorecard.
Given the policy breadth of the bills listed above, it should come as no surprise that the 2017 scorecard was nothing short of abysmal. Seventy-seven legislators failed the scorecard while only 34 got a grade of A. Thirteen legislators received the coveted and difficult-to-get perfect score in 2018: Assembly members Catharine Baker, Frank Bigelow, Bill Brough, Phil Chen, Heath Flora, Kevin Kiley, Tom Lackey, Devon Mathis, Melissa Melendez, Jay Obernolte, Marc Steinorth and Randy Voepel and state Sen. Mike Morrell. These legislators should be commended for their diligence on behalf of taxpayers.
Increasingly, party affiliation is not always an indicator of sympathy toward taxpayer issues. For the first year ever, two Assembly Democrats, Sharon Quirk-Silva and Sabrina Cervantes, received grades of B and Rudy Salas received a C grade. All three won re-election this year.
Conversely, Republican state Sen. Anthony Cannella received a failing grade of F for casting pro-taxpayer positions less than half the time.
To view the 2018 Legislative Report Card, and find which representatives are proud of their grades and which would rather they not be posted on a refrigerator, please go to www.hjta.org, where the scores can be found under “Hot Topics.”
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.