By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Sacra-tax-mento: Newsom moves to guarantee we stay subservient to tax whims of legislature
Dennis Wyatt 2022
Dennis Wyatt

Gavin Newsom doesn’t trust you.

It is why he has joined the effort to convince the California Supreme Court to remove the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act from the November 2024 ballot.

In a nutshell, the initiative:

*Requires a majority of state voters to approve any new taxes the California Legislature adopts before they can be implemented.

*Prohibits lawmakers — and the governor — from using new revenue that is identified as needed for a specific purpose to be used for anything but that purpose. In other words, no more bait and switch that Sacramento does with many taxes and fees as freely as most people breathe

*Requires the legislature to vote on any executive order by the governor or regulatory action by a bureaucracy that increases state revenue.

*Closes a court-created loophole that has allowed special taxes to pass with a simple majority if they are proposed by citizens rather than the government. The loophole has been used by local jurisdictions to convince government employee groups to place tax measures on ballots so they only require a simple majority.

*”Charges for ‘a specific government service or product’ would have to reflect the government’s ‘actual costs’ for providing the service or product.”

Reread the preceding 22 words carefully.

That is the exact wording Newsom used in his emergency petition to the state’s high court as to why the judges should remove the measure from the ballot.

Californians pay an endless number of fees for everything from driver’s licenses, and bridge tolls to garbage, water and sewer rates.

Right now, a driver’s license costs $41.

Given it is a fee, it is supposed to cover the actual cost incurred for the services provided — which is DMV staff time and related expenses to process applications and issue licenses.

Such cost can clearly cover the DMV office staffing,  the cost of a behind the wheel test, and other auxiliary costs, plus processing and the actual issuance of the license.

Based on court decisions governing the most common fees people pay government for on a monthly basis — water, solid waste, and sewer service — pro-rated shares of department overhead needed to support the license process could also be included.

Local jurisdictions such as Manteca, Ripon, Turlock, Ceres, and Lathrop are required — and have done so for decades — to prove via exhaustive studies that fees they charge for water, sewer, garbage, fingerprinting, alarm applications and such are justified based on the costs they generate to provide services. At the same time, the money can’t be used for other purposes than what it is collected for.

The real fear that Newsom et al up in Sacramento have is they would no longer be able to deploy shadow taxes that the ballot measure would outlaw.

Shadow taxes are much like its kissing cousin known as shadow government.

It is not an open book. There is no accountability. Lawmakers — and entrenched bureaucrats in positions of authority — could easily bloat fees for other purposes.

It is not a stretch in California that one day you might see a driver’s license go from $41 to $150 to subsidize high speed rail ongoing operations and maintenance.

The fare box won’t even come close to covering the bill. And while the state doesn’t even have an inkling of how it is going to pay to build the entire system, they also have no idea how they are going to pay to keep it running.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility for a fee to be attached to a driver’s license to help cover the funding.

OK, so you think that might be a stretch and that it won’t happen.

In that case, you should have no problem with the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act as it seals that door shut.

Going back to the 22 words above referenced in Newson’s petition filing.

Reread them.

All it is saying is a fee is supposed to do what a fee was meant to do — cover the actual cost of the service or product provided.

Newsom’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, has no problem  going after fast food firms, for instance, where their advertising is misleading. Therefore, people are paying for a product they aren’t actually getting. Bonta, for the record, calls that a crime.

Why should the government be held to a lower threshold than Ronald McDonald when there is more than an implied contract  in place that’s part of the California Constitution featuring more than 75,000 words — the average length of a good-sized novel?

California voters have proven again and again when real leaders invest the time, work,  and honesty to develop spending plans that are locked in by ballot wording to specific general courses of action that they can secure — and surpass — thresholds that are often at 55 percent and even two thirds to get tax measures in place.

Turlock voters in the last seven years have approved a school district bond measures, a countywide sales tax for transportation and a citywide sales tax for the General Fund.

The tax measures that passed were:

* In November 2016, Turlock voters approved Bond Measures N and O with nearly 70 percent in favor of both. While Measure O provided $48 million in general obligation bonds for projects at the city’s three public high schools, Measure N issued $40.8 million for elementary school improvements. Since then, projects prioritized by voters have taken shape throughout the years, including safety and security updates, STEM/CTE facilities and modernization and renovations.

* Measure L — Local Roads First Transportation Funding — was approved by voters in November 2016 and went into effect April 1, 2017. The 25-year one-half cent special sales tax is to be used exclusively for regional and local transportation, as well as other transit improvements. Seventy-three percent of Turlock voters voted for this measure that allocates 15.26 percent of annual funds for Turlock projects.

*The ¾ city sales tax known as Measure A was passed by voters in 2020 with 56.71percent of the vote. It was estimated to provide $11 million in revenue annually to fund City of Turlock services by increasing the sales tax from 7.875 percent to 8.625 percent.

There were eight areas listed in the Measure A ordinance — “protect Turlock’s long-term financial stability, maintain and restore public safety services, rapid 911 emergency and medical response, fire protection, fix streets and potholes, support local businesses, address challenges with homelessness and vagrancy and protect Turlock’s ability to respond to emergencies and natural disasters.”

The Measure also ensured the creation of a Citizens Oversight Committee.

In 2021, the Council split the Measure A funds into two separate accounts - one for road repairs and maintenance and the other for everything else.

If Newsom and his counterparts cannot do what local city, county, and school leaders did and make a valid case for more taxes, adopt a plan that they and future elected leaders will be forced to follow thanks to an oversight committee, and earn the trust of the voters, then why in the heck do they want to govern California?
Their opposition to the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act is not a position of those that want to govern through the democratic republic process that we have.

Instead, it reeks of what a dictator — or as England use to do to the people on these shores by royal fiat —  would do.

After all, the king and his royal court of anointed politicians  knows best .

The peasants are not to be trusted except to do the grunt work and pay the taxes.

 - Kristina Hacker contributed to this article.