■ Jon Coupal / Contributed
In this season of Thanksgiving, please don’t blame battered taxpayers if they pause when asked for what are they grateful. Considering the punishment being dished out to working Californians and the middle class by the Legislature and the governor, it may take them a moment to refocus on the good.
Sacramento has approved billions of dollars in new taxes that will fall hardest on average taxpayers. The new $5.2 billion gas and car taxes will cost the typical family about $600 per year — and fuel costs will increase by billions more in coming years due to the passage of a “hidden” carbon tax. New taxes on the filing of documents could add hundreds of dollars to the cost of property transactions, including the refinancing of a home. But this is just a start.
In a state that is already a leader in income tax rates, sales taxes and gas taxes — even property taxes are higher than in many other states — the Legislature has proposed, over the last year, $373 billion in new taxes. That’s right, lawmakers are promoting tax increases that would amount to almost three times the current state budget.
Taxpayers have a right to be concerned, even frightened. Sacramento has become the absolute validation of Ronald Reagan’s comparison of government to a baby, “An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.” If the ruling politicians get their way, during the holidays, taxpayers can look forward to a hearty meal of stone soup and a lump of coal in their stockings at Christmas.
Still, in spite of the ongoing war against taxpayers being waged by Sacramento, there is some hope. Looking east to Washington, D.C., we see for the first time since the presidency of Ronald Reagan serious discussion of tax reform that could benefit the middle class. While the legislation is still a moving target, the fact that Republicans in Congress and the president have made tax reform, including tax reduction, the centerpiece of their efforts, is welcome news to taxpayers.
The struggle over what benefits taxpayers will actually receive is between Democrats, who want to maintain the high-tax status quo to fuel ever-expanding entitlement programs, and Republicans seeking to reduce the burden on average taxpayers as well as provide some relief to job creators. The former believe that government should be the source of income to millions of Americans, while the latter support private-sector job creation as the best way to provide lower-income citizens an opportunity for self-reliance and prosperity. Ironically, it is the Democrats who have rejected the words often used by party icon John F. Kennedy, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
Even in California there is reason to believe that all is not lost to an ever-expanding government that behaves as a militant special interest. After nearly 40 years, Proposition 13 remains a bright beacon showing what citizens can accomplish by working together. The citizen-sponsored initiative still limits annual property tax increases, helping to keep down the cost of homeownership. Proposition 13 still requires that local voters, whether property owners or renters, be given the opportunity to have the final say on new taxes. And much to the displeasure of the avaricious political class, it still compels approval of two-thirds of each house of the Legislature before the imposition of new state taxes.
Today, millions of Californians support Proposition 13 and are willing to fight for their right to be protected from unreasonable taxation. For this, taxpayers are very thankful, indeed.
Jon Coupal is the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.