I am a taxpayer.
We are all taxpayers.
That’s why I find it more than curious when someone says they speak for taxpayers, infers someone else’s opinion on taxes as being invalid because they may be for a specific tax and due to that can’t be a taxpayer or else say they are looking for someone to speak for them when it comes to taxes.
Based on what is posted on social media and filling the airwaves there is no shortage of people speaking as if they are speaking for all taxpayers. And by that they usually mean property taxpayers.
The assumption that only property owners can claim the mantle of being taxpayers is 100 percent unadulterated horse pucky.
You buy most things in a store and you pay tax. You buy gas you pay tax. You rent housing you pay taxes that are collapsed into your monthly payment. You can go on and on.
Does someone paying a larger amount — or higher percentage of their income — somehow convey them more standing as a taxpayer?
I’m no Rockefeller but chances are I pay my fair share of taxes. I’m single. I have no deductions save the one afforded myself as a taxpayer.
The last new car I bought — or more aptly I financed — three years ago had a $22,000 price tag. That’s a $1,815 hit in sales tax I took that year on top of all my other taxable purchases.
I bought my house in 2008 so I’m paying a decent amount of property tax.
Like virtually everyone else I know I can’t go too many months without earning a paycheck.
Rest assured taxpayers also have all sorts of different political and personal views.
So how can someone that claims to be a taxpayer support a tax? Or, in my case, not say no to all new taxes?
The reason is simple. I kind of like the idea a police officer may come if I call to say someone is breaking into my house, that our streets don’t rival backcountry roads in Death Valley, firefighters come when someone decides to not pay attention just before they slam into my car, or the fact the next generation that will shoulder most of the burden of my future Social Security payouts are educated in public schools so they can get decent paying jobs.
Does that mean I like all expenditures made in the supposed name of common good by government agencies? Not by a long short. Do I support all proposed taxes? Again, not by a long shot.
Three incidents shape my basic outlook on taxes.
The first was the June 6, 1978 election. I was not a homeowner but I knew of people being slowly squeezed out of their homes with back-to-back years of near double-digit increases in their property tax bills.
I was 22 years old. I voted for Proposition 13.
I’d do it again because of how it stopped wholesale inefficient government decisions.
In June of 1978 I was serving my third year on the Western Placer Unified School District Board. I was the only one of the five members who openly came out for Proposition 13.
The reason was simple. Each year the district superintendent would fashion a budget. All of the expenses — reoccurring and new initiatives — were added up including pay raises. Next revenue from non-property tax sources was tallied. The difference was always a negative.
Then the property tax rate was set by the board to cover the budget gap.
Rare was a school board in California that could garner one vote against a budget for being too high let alone the majority. City and county budgets operated the same way.
Proposition 13 and subsequent ballot box measures on how taxes are determined and assessed changed all that.
The bottom line is there needs be checks and balances on government’s ability to raise taxes at will.
The second incident happened 5½ months after Proposition 13 passed. That’s when San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated on Nov. 27, 1978 by former supervisor Dan White.
That elevated the chair of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors — Dianne Feinstein — to the mayor’s office.
The following year as she was still getting her footing, she called top business leaders in The City to her office. Feinstein was concerned about the number of firms fleeing San Francisco at the time. She asked the business leaders for advice.
Those business folks got the fact the city needed taxes to provide the services they and residents needed. They also agreed a vibrant city was key not only to their bottom line but their ability to attract essential employees.
The business leaders told Feinstein what taxes needed to go but they also told her what taxes she needed to replace them with that would enable the city to fund needed services while not pushing businesses to pack up and leave or pass over San Francisco to locate their business.
She followed their advice. The City stopped the job bleed and attracted new employers.
At the same time the new taxes generated significantly more money for municipal coffers.
The bottom line are taxes are a necessity but it’s how you go about taxing that determines whether they ultimately lift the overall economy or drag or down.
The third incident was a candidates’ luncheon for the 5th District State Senate candidates sponsored by the Manteca Chamber of Commerce in the fall of 1992 at the old Larimore’s restaurant next door to the FESM Hall in the 200 block of North Main Street.
Democratic incumbent Patrick Johnson was being challenged by a Republican protégé of then Assemblyman Dean Andal.
His challenger was drawing heavy applause from those in attendance by slamming taxes and setting up Johnston as a taxaholic by asserting that Johnston’s legislative voting record revealed that “Patrick Johnston never met a tax he did not like.”
Johnston slowly rose. Instead of trying to sweet talk his way around the point being made he acknowledged his opponent was correct. Then he started citing what taxes paid for — streets, police protection, prisons, water storage facilities, law enforcement and more. His punch to the gut came as he pointed to the south and said “even the 120 Bypass that I helped many people in this room fight to get funding for was paid for with taxes.”
A lot of people had sheepish looks on their faces.
The bottom line is taxes are a necessary evil to provide what we need.
However, I don’t want to see government waste or the squandering of tax dollars. Nor do I want to deliberately starve government by not providing funding needed to provide basic services that can only be secured by a community banding together.
And whether anyone likes it or not I figuratively pay the price to earn the mantel of being called a “taxpayer” even if I ever so often have the perceived audacity to support a tax hike.