Unions Eyeing 2016 California Ballot for Tax Hike Measures

Watch out voters!


As California faced massive deficits, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and legislative leaders asked taxpayers to raise sales and income taxes to prevent cuts in funding for public schools and other services. Voters, repeatedly assured that Proposition 30's increases were only temporary, approved the 2012 measure by a solid margin.

"Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program," said free-market economist Milton Friedman. Apparently, there's nothing as permanent as a temporary tax, either, as many in the same coalition that backed Proposition 30 are preparing another campaign to make it permanent.

And an extension of Proposition 30 (or, reportedly, just the income-tax piece of it) will likely be just one of several early tax-hike proposals that supporters will submit to the secretary of state as the deadline for the November 2016 ballot approaches. It's guesswork at this point, but liberal activists have been clear they don't want to miss the chance to have something on a general-election ballot, when Democratic turnout is expected to be high.

The most divisive expected proposal would chip away at Proposition 13, the landmark 1978 measure that placed a cap on property taxes and limited annual increases. That has long been considered the third-rail of California politics — those who touch it would meet their political death. But a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found 54 percent of the electorate supportive of instituting a so-called "split roll."

Commercial properties — industrial, retail, apartment buildings, agricultural — could be split from the tax rolls and taxed separately. It would mean a large tax hike for business owners and might generate an additional $7 billion or more in revenues a year, although opponents warn it will lead to higher rents and depressed economic activity.

Supporters say it's only for business properties, but that's as convincing as those who insisted that Proposition 30 would only be short-lived. After a split roll, I'd expect activists to start coming after some tax protections for residential properties, also.

The split-roll idea isn't coming out of nowhere, but rather is part of a long-running political campaign. A group called Evolve has been sending activists to city councils to gain support for this "reform." So far, 100 school boards and councils have endorsed this idea to raise commercial property rates.

"If it ends up on the ballot, it will be Armageddon," said Rex Hime, who leads the California Business Properties Association, and vows a vigorous and well-funded campaign from the state's business community.

Another likely initiative is for an oil-severance tax. California lacks this tax, which is common in other oil-producing states, but California imposes higher types of other taxes on the oil industry, according to opponents. They say burdensome new taxes could dampen the opportunity to exploit energy deposits in the Monterey Shale, the formation that largely lies underneath California's economically depressed San Joaquin Valley.

Other talked-about initiatives: another tax on tobacco products even though the state's already high taxes on cigarettes are boosting black markets; a measure to lower the two-thirds vote threshold to 55 percent to ease the approval of local parcel taxes; and a new tax on sugary drinks. In the Legislature, Democratic Sen. Bob Hertzberg is promoting a $10-billion tax increase that would apply the state's sales tax to most services.

So much of the Proposition 30 increases went toward pensions and salaries for public employees, yet there's far more interest in finding new tax sources than in reforming pensions, retiree medical and other unsustainable programs.

"That's the spending lobby," said Jon Coupal, president of the anti-tax-hiking Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. "We've generated more tax revenue than ever before, but it's never, ever, ever, ever enough." The Jarvis group will no doubt be a big player in the emerging coalitionthat will fight any split-roll initiative.

Billionaire Democrat Tom Steyer is expected to fund a pro-severance-tax measure. The oil companies will no doubt fund a campaign against that one, just as the tobacco companies would fund the campaign against a cigarette-tax hike. But it's unclear who might lead the opposition to a Proposition 30 extension, which likely will be backed by the well-heeled California Teachers Association.

Gov. Brown remains a wild card. He has said he views Proposition 30 as temporary and also has previously opposed the severance tax. But he has his own high-priority projects (the Delta tunnels and the bullet train) to fund even though he has gained plaudits for his (relatively) frugal handling of the state's budget.

Hime said he would be happy if multiple tax measures land on the same ballot, given that voters are likely to reject them all if they are faced with such a tax-hike avalanche. So we'll have to see which measure(s) the union-allied groups ultimately focus on. Whatever strategy they embrace, it will be touted as an effort to "fully fund state government," said Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable.

But just as no tax increase is ever temporary, no spending measure will ever fully fund anything. There's only one thing the "spending lobby" seems to want: more.

NEXT: Walter Scott Dashcam Video Released

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Maybe they could use it to fund some desalination plants? Just an idea.

    1. Could put it right next to the San Onofre nuclear power plant… or not.

      1. Ugh… Angelinos are insufferable as is, don’t give them superpowers!

    2. What!? Using tax money to fund something people actually need is unconstitutional! Or unfair! Or unsomething progressives believe!

  2. California: a nice place to visit.

    1. I hitchhiked the 101 two summers ago. It was incredible.

      1. Jelly

          1. jelly….ous

            1. Ah.

              *clears throat*


              *takes breath*


              1. I’ll skip the anecdote, but it was certainly great for me.

                1. I feel I am being cheated out of an anecdote, now.

                  1. Aw hamburgers! I’m with De O L, Charles – please cough up the anecdote! C’mon!!!! PUHLEEEEEEEEEEZE???!

                2. I think I was outside of Yachats one morning when I spotted a coffee shack. They were serving spinach quiche for breakfast. Having come from Texas, and thus really in need of a good bacon/egg/bean breakfast taco, I saw that freaking quiche and laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

                  The weather’s nice, and it’s pretty. Pity they don’t eat real food.

                  1. HoD, you need to relay that story to Playa and tell him I told you to.

                    Add an avocado to it, and that’ll be the topper.

  3. I’m part of a project that will eventually hire 30 or so new full-time employees. All things being equal, they would work in CA. Things aren’t equal and they won’t be in CA.

  4. Supporters say it’s only for business properties

    “Do you ever, or do you plan to, travel outside the State”?

    “Well, I guess so,”

    “Commerce Clause, biotch!”

  5. Here in this hopeless fucking hole we call LA
    The only way to fix it is to flush it all away
    Any fucking time. Any fucking day.
    Learn to swim, I’ll see you down in Arizona Bay.

    1. nice…..nod to Tool and Bill Hicks

    2. That song following “Screenwriter’s Blues” by Soul Coughing (10-25-98 concert bootleg version) was the perfect soundtrack driving into L.A. for work 5 years ago. Irrelevant? Yes. Surprise bout of nostalgia? Indeed. Drunk before 11 am on a Friday? Of course.

      1. But were you going to Reseda to make love to a model whose real name you don’t know?

        1. We are all going to Reseda, someday, to die.

  6. “Get your wallet in my belly!”

  7. In the Legislature, Democratic Sen. Bob Hertzberg is promoting a $10-billion tax increase that would apply the state’s sales tax to most services.

    “California has long been known as the land of opportunity, the republic of the future,” wrote Hertzberg, USC law professor Edward Kleinbard and economist Laura Tyson, in the Los Angeles Daily News. “Inequality continues to rise ? even though California has one of the most progressive tax structures in the nation. Something more is needed.” They call for “a new philosophy of governance” and “modernizing our tax system” to boost upward mobility.

    “What we’re doing isn’t working! How do we fix it!”
    “How about we do more of the same, only this time we ramp it up!”

    1. I’m not even sure they believe it.

      As Sevo would remark: “Turds lie. It’s what turds do.”

    2. “Inequality continues to rise ? even though California has one of the most progressive tax structures in the nation.”

      maybe there is a lesson in that.

    3. After you’ve run a place into the ground, one must either abandon it or fix it. If one fails to realize how said place was run into the ground to begin with…best pack.

      It’s sad. CA is a beautiful place. I’m afraid, in the end, it will be Detroit on a statewide scale.

      1. I dunno… NYC has proven that an entity with no middle class and with half the residents paying most of the taxes of the other half can chug along reasonably well.

      2. West Detroit is probably already taken but what the hell.

  8. Why anyone would believe a promise that a tax measure is “temporary” is what boggles my mind.

    1. I’ve always wondered if anybody actually is that stupid. I just figure all the people who are voting “yes” are voting that way because they want a permanent tax increase.

      1. They are the same people who trust the police.

        1. Speaking of, has the the Virginia Beach video made the rounds?

          1. The kids aren’t black. Doesn’t fit the narrative. Nothing to see here, move along.

            1. I’m seriously thinking about putting dash cams In both of my cars because of this shit. I’ve had police take a perfectly innocuous statement of mine the wrong way before, and have had to deal with their wrath as they were connecting 2 and 2 to realize that I was not being a smartass. The idea of being confronted by one of these roided up gorillas without it being recorded is a touch scary.

              When you get pulled over, you have no way of knowing whether you’re getting Andy Griffith or a uniformed ape with an itch to put 10,000 volts through your nipples.

              1. You’re always getting an ape. Never trust them, never talk to them without a lawyer. And dashcams are so cheap now that it’s silly not to have one.

              2. I’ve been considering that myself for the same reasons.

                1. The department was previously unaware of the citizens recorded video until today.

                  I mean… fuck. Either they’re lying, or the fuck face in the last frame of the video needs to be fired for not disclosing the phone video on his “misuse of force” document.

                2. A quick google found that some connect to your car’s computer to record your speed, while also having the option to password protect the video.

                  That would have come in handy the last time I got pulled over while going 60 in a 55, and was charged with going 65 in the 45 zone a few miles behind me. (the cop was traveling towards me when he got me, so there’s no way he could argue he tagged me in the 45 zone I had recently exited)

                  Cops can’t even issue a speeding ticket without lying.

                  1. I want one that holds the video separate from the camera. It won’t be long before they wise up and you get your car back sans SD card.

                    1. This link leads to a few suggestions:

                  2. A cop that writes hundreds of tickets a month and then says on the stand that he remembers you. R-i-g-h-t-t-t-t-t-t

    2. Hey, I voted against it. I’ve voted against any and ALL tax increases. The politicians will just waste it. And I was right.

  9. This is why the CA politicians are so adamant about the public health menace of E-cigarettes. It’s only a menace to their revenue targets.

    1. “Come on, may, I’m jonesin’, I need these tobacco cigarettes for revenue, don’t take them away from me!”

  10. It would mean a large tax hike for business owners and might generate an additional $7 billion or more in revenues a year

    I bet they calculated that on all current businesses. not just the ones that can afford to take the hit.

    We could use a few more jobs where I live in Texas. Time for our mayor to go shopping.

    1. There are still a few fields left between Dallas and the red river, and CA folks are going to join state farm (which has a beautiful complex going up) and Toyota (which has a HUGE complex going up) here in North texas. Just leave your stupid politics behind please!

      1. This.

        I offer Colorado (well, Denver/Aspen/Teller County, at least) as an an example.

        1. Yep…

          The Front Range = New California

          1. At least in El Paso County we were able to keep the hippies at bay with the all military installations… I think we bathed too often for their tastes and they seem to be repelled by short haircuts…

            1. I lived near Palmer Lake for a few years and had a female CA transplant tell me that my dogs shouldn’t be allowed to swim in the reservoir because that “was their drinking water.”

              Fish, snakes, beavers, otters, muskrat, deer, bear, foxes, coyotes, Elk…could all shit in it at will…but dogs and people are dirty. And, it certainly isn’t treated…

              1. I’d sooner drink water my dogs swam in than water Californee’ns swam in…

                *spits out chaw – wipes lip*

              2. Just wait until they hear you’re selling farm-fresh eggs.

                “What… like… from a real chicken’s butt? Ewwww.”

                City kids. Sheesh.

                1. My buddy in SC JUST started on chickens! 27 of the little fuckers running around till he decides who stays. Just built a really nice coop.

                  So cool…nothing better than fresh eggs – I mean “from here to there” fresh. Mmmmm! Plus – the fresh chicken when you gotta thin the flock…

  11. OT: Calling Longtorso/in case I forget later, a Golden Girls lego set may be coming to a toy store near you.


    2. *masturbates furiously*

  12. It would mean a large tax hike for business owners and might generate an additional $7 billion or more in revenues a year, although opponents warn it will lead to higher rents and depressed economic activity. Supporters say it’s only for business properties

    “Your tax is going to harm economic activity.”

    “No shit. That’s why we’re only taxing businesses.”

    1. and when you raise taxes, nothing else happens. No wonder Brown and Co do stuff like this; they keep getting elected so what would dissuade them?

      1. and when you raise taxes, nothing else happens.

        Well, yeah. Businesses have an unlimited supply of cash. Everyone knows this. Taxing businesses is how The People get their fair share back from evil businesses who steal from customers and employees alike in their greedy quest for immoral profits.

  13. Again – Cali is tops among the states I’ve refused to consider for jobs. Headhunters are starting to catch on. Yeah, it’s a lovely place, lovely climate….that I can’t do anything I like to do….so why would I want to live and work there, when I can just visit, take a shit, like Sandi, and leave?

    Enjoying watching the gradual descent into maelstrom….

    1. Yep, my previous company is headquartered in Silicon valley, and gave me the option of living in Silicon valley, Atlanta, boston, dallas, and raleigh. I immediately told them that silicon valley and Boston were off the list due to “socioeconomic conditions.” They got the hint. Another big company in Seattle wanted to get me to relocate there, and we’re bugging me every 3 months about it. I flat out told them that I was unwilling to live in Seattle, and to call me back when they had openings elsewhere. They got the hint, too.

      You’re seeing satellite offices for all the big silicon valley businesses opening in Austin and Dallas because they’re getting pushback from many, many people who have no interest in living in a shack under an ecototalitarian regime. I’ve got a 15 year mortgage on an acre and a 2500 sqft house in Dallas for what my friend in SV pays in rent for a studio. Sure, the weather isn’t as nice, and the beach is 5 hours away, but who wants to be cooped up in a studio until theyre 50?

      1. my youngest works for a SV-based company in Raleigh. Two hours from the beach, about 2-3 from the mountains, affordable, good bit of stuff going on. The RTP area keeps growing with several universities and the state capitol as stabilizers of a sort. The state flipped red a couple of years back and the Kultur Warz continue, but it’s not CA.

        1. Yep, RTP is really cool from what I’ve heard. I think it’s similar to what they have going on in Austin. Dallas is trying to build their telecom corridor into a similar thing, with UT Dallas taking a Stanford or Berkeley type role. They have some work to do (the students were noticeably inferior at UTD as compared to UT or A&M), but they’re putting the pieces in place.

          Silicon Valley has an expiration date, and it’s coming very quickly.

          1. one of my MI cousins moved to RTP – the others are mostly in Dallas area. one in Chicago.

            Was just in NC/SC – fuck….me…..gorgeous. I’m still leaning toward TN/KY, but Mrs. Almanian and I are taking another look at the NC/SC border area. Just fucking stunning there, and not at all overbuilt. That’ll come about the time I’m ready to die so…

    2. When I was looking for a job a few years ago, I redlined two states: NY, and CA, even though they had a disproportionate number of jobs I would be interested in.

      1. Yep – CA and NY were numbers one and two on my list. I’ve added NJ since.

        Some of the hunters are no longer surprised when I say, “Idaho? Sure, Idaho would be fine…”

      2. We redlined MS, AL, and GA.

        Moving from CA to Texas was a bit of a shock. Moving from Texas to Illinois was a worse shock. It’s as bad as CA but without the scenery.

        1. BTW, Western NY is quite nice except for the taxes. Beautiful scenery, low-ish cost of living, and (outside Rochester and Buffalo), reasonably loose gun laws.

  14. My co-worker’s step-sister makes $80 /hour on the laptop . She has been out of work for seven months but last month her paycheck was $21155 just working on the laptop for a few hours. find out here now

    1. But what does she do for water, derpobot?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.