California Backward?

By [post_author] –

Posted on Freedom Advocates on April 21st 2009

Santa Cruz County Treasurer-Tax Collector Fred Keeley is at the helm of a movement to repeal Proposition 13 and the 2/3 voting supermajority required for tax increases. The mantra is crisis, crisis, crisis and the claim is that a new organization called “California Forward” can fix it. This use of crisis is meant to scare voters into agreeing to increased taxes.

Keeley Introduces Toolkit to Raise Taxes

Santa Cruz County Treasurer-Tax Collector Fred Keeley is fond of saying in meetings, “I’ve never seen a government program that wouldn’t work if you just threw enough money at it.” So it’s fitting that he is at the helm of a movement to repeal Proposition 13 and the 2/3 voting supermajority required to raise any tax.

Euphemistically called California Forward, the group is well funded thanks to the largesse of these foundations: The California Endowment, The Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

According to its website, this new organization was created by California Common Cause, Center for Governmental Studies, New California Network and the Commonwealth Club of California’s Voices of Reform Project.

In preparation for this assault on tax protections, new Assemblyman Bill Monning, Tax Collector Fred Keeley and other senior participants of California Forward organized local meetings of varying scale. Initially they met with compliant government officials and various nonprofit organizations such as women’s groups and resource centers that are currently funded by the County of Santa Cruz. Many of these organizations are routinely called upon to support the latest tax measure, government housing project or water takeover, presumably in exchange for continued funding.

Keeley and Monning hosted the California Forward Community Dialogue on Tax Reform on Thursday, March 19 at Cabrillo College in Aptos. The public meeting was touted as a quasi road show to gauge the pulse of the public. While the meeting was advertised with local media outlets, direct invitations were sent to a select group of self-described Santa Cruz Progressives who consistently vote for increased taxes and a larger government presence in the lives of private citizens.

Click here to read an attendee’s detailed perspective on the meeting.

The mantra is crisis, crisis, crisis and the claim is that California Forward can fix it. They point to existing and potential problems in the environment, education, transportation, immigration, housing and other areas to justify their cause.

California Forward’s antics also appear in classrooms K-12 using the “Next 10” organization.

On March 27, the week following the public meeting, Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, took her version of the More Tax Road Show to E.A. Hall Middle School 8th graders in Watsonville. One topic of discussion was the routing of money to schools. Caballero stated per the Santa Cruz Sentinel, “We’re not investing in students.” and “We’re doing a lousy job. … We need more money. We don’t have it.”

During the talk, she correlated gang violence to the state’s inability to adequately fund preschools. She threatened that those who get involved in gangs are “going to end up detained somewhere. Or you’re going to end up dead because other gang members are going to be looking for you.”

In the days following the Cabrillo College meeting, politicians came out of the woodwork to perpetuate the concept. As reported in the Press Banner, Bill Monning preached “dire straits” and “budget crisis” and “we’re paralyzed” and “closing all the schools won’t bridge the gap.”

Keeley’s premise is that while the state of California resembles a Mercedes, we are limited by outdated Model T “tools” to fix it. At the current rate of taxation, certainly the Mercedes analogy fits. The point California Forward leaders miss is that the outdated tools are not due to insufficient tax revenues, but rather, overlapping, inappropriate and inflated bureaucracies.

This use of crisis is meant to scare voters into agreeing to increased taxes and/or decreased protection against tax increases. But they start with a faulty premise – that there is not enough money. There is plenty of money to cover infrastructure and civic protection needs. The failures result from those in charge and how they disperse the funds already collected from the public.

From the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy (CCSCE):

“In 2007 state and local taxes in California amounted to approximately $170 billion or 11.5% of personal income in the state.”

“In the 2006-2007 fiscal year the $170 billion in state and local tax revenue in California came from five major sources:

1) personal income taxes of $52 billion,
2) sales taxes of $45 billion,
3) property taxes of $42 billion,
4) corporate income taxes of $11 billion, and
5) approximately $20 billion in other taxes.”

“The personal and corporate income taxes go into the state General Fund. Sales taxes are split between state government ($28 billion) and local government and local transportation agencies. Property taxes fund schools, cities, counties and special districts. The miscellaneous taxes go primarily to local governments.”

According to data from the Tax Foundation, Californians’ tax burden currently stands at the 6th highest in the nation and our sales tax rate exceeds the national median.

Not surprisingly, the California Forward group does not advocate for fiscal responsibility. Their plan is to increase revenue to propagate more programs or continue funding existing ones…whether they are beneficial or not. Keeley insists that the tax system should reflect the “green” values represented by AB 32 the Global Warming Solutions Act and SB 375 Sustainable Communities Strategy, also being implemented through the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) and the Local Agenda 21 Campaign.

In Santa Cruz County, for the past 30 years, big government programs directed by government funded nonprofits have been touted as the cure-all for the crisis at hand. This evidenced corruption is the best example for why we should be wary of California Forward’s message. We must establish priorities. Throwing more money at a broken system exacerbates the problem and creates a greater crisis.

For a July 2009 commentary see Dan Walters Sacramento Bee Commentary “Ideology divides California Tax Panel” 

California Backward? by Andrea Sanchez


This article contains links to outside sources not controlled by Freedom Advocates and therefore are subject to change.

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