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Funding Pensions for Unionized Government Workers – It's Never Enough

Editor’s Note:  Here’s another government pension horror story coming from Chicago. If you think it can’t happen here, think again. California’s political system, state and local, is just as dominated by government unions as Illinois. At least in Illinois, Governor Rauner is using every legal and political weapon he can possibly muster to fight these unions. California Governor Jerry Brown, who knows better, is hoping incremental reforms combined with incessant tax increases will save the pension system. As Jon Coupal points out here, California’s taxpayers have one advantage – Proposition 13. Without the limits Prop. 13 places on property tax increases, California’s urban residents could easily end up facing what Chicago’s residents currently face, or what has already happened in New Jersey, where people living in modest homes pay annual property taxes of $15,000 or more to support – just like in Illinois, pensions for unionized public employees. First Detroit, then Chicago. One sustained market downturn, and Los Angeles will be next.

Chicago, Carl Sandburg’s “City of the big shoulders,” is about to find out just how heavy a tax burden homeowners are able to bear. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has revealed his plan for a massive property tax increase to pay for unfunded pension obligations. And for taxpayers, it isn’t pretty. The mayor wants a $543 million increase in property taxes to cover police and fire pensions, as well as additional taxes and fees to close a projected $745 million budget shortfall.

How much this will cost the average homeowner is not yet clear. Emanuel is seeking approval from the Legislature to exempt those homes worth less than $250,000 from the increase, meaning more valuable properties would absorb the entire burden.

The uncertainty may also be contributing to a decline in home values in recent months, as shown by the Case-Shiller Home Price Index. Buyers may not be so ready to cut a deal that will see them inheriting a massive property tax hike.

In order to illustrate the seriousness of the city’s fiscal crisis, and perhaps to make it easier to extort more from property owners, Emanuel is claiming that without the additional revenue, public safety will be decimated. Twenty percent of the police force and forty percent of firefighters will lose their jobs, he threatens.

Still, two years ago, the mayor foreshadowed the coming tax increase when he warned that in order to pay the mounting bill for government employee pensions — a bill that would triple in 2015 when a balloon payment comes due — property taxes could be forced to go up 150%.

This is a frightening scenario for homeowners, but not so much for homeowners in California. For us, notwithstanding equally daunting pension problems, the good news is Proposition 13. Although city mismanagement is also common to California – a number of cities have been forced to file for bankruptcy in recent years, largely due to exploding government employee pension debt – officials are prohibited by Proposition 13 from soaking property owners to cover up their dereliction. While Chicago homeowners are sitting ducks for higher property taxes, in California, increases are limited to two percent annually.

Add to the property tax limitations that Proposition 13 gives voters the final say on new local taxes and requires a two-thirds vote of each house of the Legislature to increase state taxes, and it becomes easier to understand why it is a target of so many Sacramento politicians, most of whom owe their election to their government employee union allies. If they can eliminate the impediments to tax increases established by Proposition 13, the politicians will be in a much better position to repay and reward their political benefactors.

Without Proposition 13 Californians could soon experience what it is like to live in Chicago without ever having to leave their homes. And it could be even worse. Chicago’s budget director has already gone on record as saying Mayor Emanuel’s property tax increase is not enough.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Government Unions Move to Extend "Temporary" Income Tax Increases

A coalition of government employee unions has filed an initiative that would extend the temporary income tax hikes that were contained in Proposition 30 and approved by voters in 2012.

If this seems like, in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “déjà vu all over again,” it’s not your imagination. This is just the tax raisers running their favorite play from “The Book of Dirty Tricks on Taxpayers.” First they persuade taxpayers to accept a tax by marketing it as temporary. Once taxpayers have become inured to paying it, the tax raisers move in to extend it or make it permanent.

Big spending politicians and their allied government employee unions count on taxpayers having short memories to make this scam work. For example, look at the 1.25% sales tax increase political elites pushed in 1991 to deal with a budget gap. A half-cent was supposed to be temporary but when it came time to expire the Legislature placed it on the ballot promoting it as necessary for “public safety.” Voters — by then used to paying the higher tax — swallowed the hook and we continue to pay the entire 1.25% increase initiated almost twenty-five years ago.

There is a saying in football that if a play works once, keep running it until the opposition shows they can stop it. In 2009, the Legislature achieved the two-thirds vote to impose two year increases in state sales and income taxes. Immediately they placed on the ballot, in a special election, an extension of these taxes for two additional years. Voters, still shocked by being hit with stiff tax increases, were having none of it and rejected the extension by almost two to one.

Realizing they had not waited long enough to allow taxpayers to become accustomed to higher taxes, government employee unions, working with Gov. Brown returned to the ballot in 2012 with another “temporary” increase in sales and income taxes in the form of Proposition 30. As the primary spokesman for the tax, the governor traveled the state repeating the mantra, “It’s for the schools, its temporary.” Voters were persuaded to approve another “temporary” tax increase. Now those who benefit the most from higher revenues – California has the highest-paid state and local public employees in all 50 states according to the Department of Labor – are back seeking to extend taxes, that were scheduled to expire in 2019, for another dozen years.

If the Proposition 30 extension, now being called the School Funding and Budget Stability Act, appears on the ballot, it has a good chance to pass. This is because the burden will fall on a minority, upper income taxpayers, and many voters will overlook that high taxes will cause some of our most successful residents to leave for more tax-friendly states, meaning that they will no longer pay any taxes to California.

The most important thing for voters to remember, however, is that if they agree to any temporary tax, it may as well be considered as permanent. As for the Proposition 30 temporary tax, it likely will join the ranks of other “temporary” taxes that seem never to disappear. Among those is the federal telephone tax established to pay for the Spanish American War, which remained in place for 108 years after the war ended.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

California's Government Union Quandary – Support More Taxes Yet Claim Budget "Surpluses"

Californians know them well. They are the Proposition 13 “blamers.” They blame Proposition 13 for everything they see or even imagine as negative in the state of California.

Some years ago, a newspaper editorial asked if Proposition 13 was responsible for a measles epidemic saying it may have limited the availability of vaccine. A national publication suggested that O.J. Simpson’s acquittal of murder charges was due to the tax limiting measure because prosecuting attorneys may not have been paid enough.

Most recently, a column by a West Coast writer published in the New York Times claimed that one of the reasons that Los Angeles is becoming a “third world” city is reduced funding for education caused by the tax revolt that passed Proposition 13. As is typical, the writer ignores the fact that California now spends 30 percent more per pupil, in inflation adjusted dollars, than the amount spent just prior to the passage of Proposition 13 — a time when both liberals and conservatives agree that California schools were among the best in the nation.

Most Californians know they are overtaxed and that’s bad news for the blamers. And the latest news about California tax revenue is even worse for 13’s detractors. According to a review by the California Taxpayers Association of counties that have so far released their assessment rolls — showing the value of property as of January 1, 2015 — there is dramatic increase in values and that’s driving property tax revenue up rapidly. For example, Santa Clara County has seen an increase of 8.67 percent over the previous year.

Rapidly rising property tax revenue is not only making the Prop 13 blamers look foolish, it is adding compelling evidence to the argument that California should be considering tax reductions, not increases. News reports abound in the Golden State about the California economic recovery and a $6 billion dollar budget surplus. The two big sources for state revenue — sales taxes and income taxes — have preceded property taxes in seeing big increases. The latest news from county assessors simply completes the tax revenue trifecta.

Here’s the rub. Interests groups that want tax hikes — mostly public sector labor organizations — are running out of time to make a decision on which tax hikes to pursue for the November 2016 ballot. (To qualify an initiative takes about a year of lead time). We at HJTA hear that there are disagreements within those interests as to which tax hikes to pursue. Californians will almost certainly see a tobacco tax increase on the ballot as well as a possible tax on oil production. But what about extending the Proposition 30 tax hikes on sales and income? The flush status of the state budget renders those proposals questionable.

More importantly, the significant increase in property tax revenues raises serious questions about the viability of a so-called “split roll” proposal which would deprive business property of Prop 13 protections. Split roll proposals have been defeated before in California and, of all the tax hikes being considered by the tax-and-spend lobby, hitting commercial property with a $9 billion tax hike is going to be next to impossible to justify to California voters.

The next few months will be very revealing as to the tax raisers strategies. But whatever tax or taxes they decide to target, those paying the bill should be prepared to push back with the argument that California does not need any more tax hikes at all. And we should push back very hard.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Unions Continue Attack Prop. 218, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act

At the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA), we have seen Proposition 13 blamed for just about everything. A national publication blamed the tax limiting measure for the not guilty verdict in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, while a high school physical education coach wrote in a community paper that the loss of shots by his track and field team was due to the lack of money to cut the grass, and this, of course, was due to Proposition 13.

Now we’re seeing attacks on HJTA sponsored Proposition 218, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, which makes the taxing process more democratic by allowing voters to decide on local tax increases and to assure property owners that they would have a meaningful say on new assessments, fees and charges.  One such attack was a recent opinion piece, calling for the repeal of Proposition 218, because it robs voters of their “democratic power.”

This critic argued that, because Proposition 218 guarantees the voters’ right to approve or reject new taxes, it prevents politicians from matching revenue to their spending, “…local officials can give big pensions to cops, but don’t have the power to raise taxes to pay for those pensions.”

But this begs the obvious question: if officials are going to provide benefits to government employees that are unsustainable, wouldn’t it make more sense to limit spending rather than having an open season on taxpayers who are already among the most taxed in all 50 states?

Pundits who call for the repeal of Prop 218 are naïve.  They see the state of our political environment as if it were from a sanitized civics textbook or perhaps like Disneyland, a well ordered theme park where fantasies can be made to come true.

The Magic Kingdom may seem genteel, filled with reasonable and well behaved people, when viewed from a tower in the Sleeping Beauty Castle, but outside the park in Realville, a battle is raging between those who work hard to support themselves and their families and those who believe politics is an extension of a grand spoils system where taxes are the preferred weapon to extract ever more money from those who earn it.

California politics is a bare knuckles contest where, by far, the largest and most powerful competitors are the government employee unions.  Because of their ability to turn out members to vote for the union label and their ability to use mandatory union dues for any political purpose, they are able to elect a majority to the Legislature, a majority that owes them allegiance.  At the local level, they are just as influential, controlling a majority of votes on many city councils.

And the unions do not adhere to Marquis of Queensbury rules.  In San Diego they sent out goon squads to intimidate signature gatherers for a reasonable ballot measure to reform pensions.  And in Costa Mesa, they went so far as to hire private detectives to follow city council members, who refused to roll over under union pressure, in an effort to find incriminating information about them.

The result of this union power is evidenced by the recent bankruptcies of cities like Stockton and San Bernardino, where union-beholden council members voted increases in pay and benefits that were unsustainable.

Ironically, had officials been able to raise taxes without going to voters as required by Propositions 13 and 218, the communities would be worse off because California taxpayers and businesses have learned that they can vote with their feet by fleeing to more tax friendly communities or states.  Jurisdictions which lose their tax payers and are left with nothing but tax receivers don’t do very well.

In the real world of California politics, Propositions 13 and 218 are important checks against a corrupt political establishment that is beholden to special interests. So let’s not pretend that this is Fantasyland. The only thing that California politics has in common with Disneyland is that most of the laws enacted that hurt taxpayers are downright goofy.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Unions Back Unelectable Republican to Draw Votes from Reform Democrat

Last November’s election saw some of the most craven political tactics ever seen in California.  Fearful that they would lose the two thirds supermajority in both houses, many anti-taxpayer candidates – usually Democrats – attempted to portray themselves as friendly to taxpayers and in favor of Proposition 13 when, in fact, the exact opposite was true.  Perhaps the worst example of this was the race between Proposition 13 ally Janet Nguyen and Jose Solorio for a Senate seat in Orange County.  Democrats were so fearful of losing this seat that Governor Brown unleashed radio advertising claiming that Solorio was the candidate who would protect Proposition 13.  Thanks in large part to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association Political Action Committee, voters were informed that Nguyen was by far the superior candidate over the proven tax-and-spend Solorio.  Thankfully, she won the election handily receiving more than 58% of the vote.

Well, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, here we go again.

Next week, on March 17th, voters in the East Bay area of Northern California will decide who will fill a state senate seat.  Or, more likely, they will pick two candidates who will face one another in a runoff election.  In this race, there are three viable candidates – all Democrats.  The lone Republican candidate, Michaela Hertle, dropped out of the race and threw her support behind Steve Glazer, a moderate pro-business Democrat who appears to be a good fit for this fiscally conservative, socially moderate district.

The problem is that Glazer is hated by powerful public sector labor organizations.  From their view, he had the audacity to oppose a BART strike – which inconvenienced tens of thousands of Bay Area commuters – and, even worse, he said he would not support a change in Proposition 13’s rules regarding property owned by businesses.

Labor organizations would like nothing more than to prevent Glazer from being one of the top two vote getters next week.  If that occurs, then the only candidates appearing on the ballot in the May runoff election would be two tax-and-spend, labor compliant, left leaning Democrats.  For Proposition 13 supporters, this is the worst case scenario.

So, rather than tell the truth about their anti-taxpayer agenda, the labor organizations have financed an expensive mail campaign in favor of the Republican who has dropped out of the race.  This may seem crazy, but the goal here is to confuse Republican voters into voting their party as opposed to a moderate Democrat who actually has a chance to win.

This strategy reveals two things.  First, powerful public sector labor organizations will stop at nothing to advance their narrow interests.  Second, they recognize – as do most political observers – that Proposition 13 and the interests of taxpayers still resonate powerfully in California.

While the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association PAC has not endorsed a candidate in this special election, we reserve the right to do so in the runoff election.  But one thing is certain.  Of the candidates, Steve Glazer appears to be the most sympathetic to the issues of concern to California taxpayers – including the preservation of Proposition 13.  At a minimum, he is the least beholden to unions.  And in this state, that is saying something.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

California's $12.3 Billion in Proposed School Bonds: Borrowing vs. Reform

“As the result of California Courts refusing to uphold the language of the High Speed Rail bonds, the opponents of any bond proposal, at either the state or local level, need only point to High-Speed Rail to remind voters that promises in a voter approved bond proposal are meaningless and unenforceable.”
–  Jon Coupal, October 26, 2014, HJTA California Commentary

If that isn’t plain enough – here’s a restatement: California’s politicians can ask voters to approve bonds, announcing the funds will be used for a specific purpose, then they can turn around and do anything they want with the money. And while there’s been a lot of coverage and debate over big statewide bond votes, the real money is in the countless local bond issues that collectively now encumber California’s taxpayers with well over $250 billion in debt.

Over the past few weeks we’ve tried to point out that local tax increases – 166 of them on the November 4th ballot at last count, tend to be calibrated to raise an amount of new tax revenue that, in too many cases, are suspiciously equal to the amount that pension contributions are going to be raised over the next few years. For three detailed examples of how local tax increases will roughly equal the impending increases to required pension contributions, read about Stanton, Palo Alto, and Watsonville‘s local tax proposals. It is impossible to analyze them all.

As taxes increase, money remains fungible. More money, more options. They can say it’s for anything they want. And apparently, bonds are no better.

At last count, there are 118 local bond measures on the November ballot. And not including three school districts in Fresno County for which the researchers at CalTax are “awaiting more information,” these bonds, collectively, propose $12.4 billion in new debt for California taxpayers. All but six of these bond proposals (representing $112 million) are for schools. Refer to the list from CalTax to read a summary of what each of these bonds are for – “school improvements,” “replace leaky roofs,” “repair restrooms,” “repair gas/sewer lines,” “upgrade wiring,” “renovate classrooms,” “make repairs.”

To be fair, there are plenty of examples of new capital investment, “construct a new high school,” for example, but they represent a small fraction of the stated intents. On November 4th, Californians are being asked to borrow another $12.3 billion to shore up their public school system. They are being asked to pile another $12.3 billion onto over $250 billion of existing local government debt, along with additional hundreds of billions in unfunded retirement obligations for state and local government workers. They are being asked to borrow another $12.3 billion in order to do deferred maintenance. We are borrowing money to fix leaky roofs and repair restrooms and sewers. This is a scandal, because for the past 2-3 decades, California’s educational system has been ran for the benefit of unionized educators and unionized construction contractors who work in league with financial firms whose sales tactics and terms of lending would make sharks on Wall Street blush. These special interests have wasted taxpayers money and wasted the educations of millions of children. Their solution? Ask for more money.

Nobody should suggest that California’s public schools don’t require investment and upgrades. But before borrowing more money on the shoulders of taxpayers, why aren’t alternatives considered? Why aren’t educators clamoring for reforms that would cut back on the ratio of administrators to teachers? Why aren’t they admitting that project labor agreements raise the cost to taxpayers for all capital investments and upgrades, and doing something about it? If their primary motivation is the interests of students, why aren’t they supporting the Vergara ruling that, if enforced, will improve the quality of teachers in the classroom at no additional cost? Why aren’t they embracing charter schools, institutions whose survival is tied to their ability to produce superior educational outcomes for far less money? Why don’t they question more of these “upgrade” projects? Is it absolutely necessary to carpet every field in artificial turf, a solution that is not only expensive but causes far more injuries to student athletes? Is it necessary to spend tens of millions per school on solar power systems? Does every high school really need a new theater, or science lab? Or do they just need fewer administrators, and better teachers?

And to acknowledge the biggest, sickest elephant in the room – that massive, teetering colossus called CalSTRS, should teachers, who only spend 180 days per year actually teaching, really be entitled to pensions that equal 75% of their final salary after only 30 years, in exchange for salary withholding that barely exceeds what private employees pay into Social Security? Thanks to unreformed pensions, how many billions in school maintenance money ended up getting invested by CalSTRS in Mumbai, Shanghai, Jakarta, or other business-friendly regions?

How much money would be saved if all these tough reforms were enacted? More importantly, how much would we improve the ability of our public schools to educate the next generation of Californians? Would we still have to borrow another $12.3 billion?

Here’s an excerpt from an online post promoting one of California’s local school bond measures: “It will help student academic performance, along with ensuring our property values. If you believe that strong schools and strong communities go hand in hand, please vote…”

Unfortunately, such promises are meaningless and unenforceable. The debt is forever.

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Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

Prop. 13 Narrowly Survives Another Legislative Session

Two years ago, when 2013-14 legislative session began, things looked very dark for California homeowners. Democrats, many hostile to Proposition 13, achieved a super-majority in both the Assembly and Senate. Many publicly expressed their hostility to the landmark property tax initiative and one even said he would like to “nuke” Prop 13. Others were a bit more subtle, saying only that it was time to “examine” it. Of course, in this context, “examine” is a euphemism for “dismantle.”

However, for a variety of reasons, it now appears that Prop 13 has survived unscathed and, in fact, emerged stronger than ever. This is great news for all California taxpayers who rely on Proposition 13’s protections.

But it wasn’t easy. Here are some examples of what Proposition 13 had to endure.

Without a doubt, the biggest threat this session was Assembly Constitutional Amendment 8, a measure that would have lowered the two-thirds vote to approve local bonds. ACA 8 passed out of the Assembly on a pure party-line vote, with all Democrats voting in favor. Notably, this was the first attack in Proposition 13’s 36 year history to clear a house of the Legislature. Passage of ACA 8 would have meant billions of dollars of additional debt placed solely on the backs of property owners. However, due the diligent work of taxpayer advocates and the shocking criminal indictments of three Democratic State Senators – taking them out of the action – meant that the Senate lost its supermajority status and thus Proposition 13’s enemies were denied the ability to put ACA 8 on the ballot.

There were other threats to taxpayers that were successfully repelled. Senate Bill 1021 would have resulted in an explosion of so-called “parcel taxes” – property levies above Prop 13’s one percent cap. This bill would have allowed these taxes to be imposed, not on a uniform basis as currently required, but based on various classifications depending on how the property was used. Had SB 1021 passed, these dreaded parcel taxes would have been much easier to pass.

Sadly, some of the traditional taxpayer allies in the legislature have turned into “summer soldiers and sunshine patriots” making it difficult for those of us who advocate for taxpayers to determine upon whom we can rely. Double-digit numbers of once proud pro-taxpayer Republicans have succumbed to the demands of their liberal colleagues and big government advocates. As a result, a timber tax, mattress tax and massive car tax – cumulatively totaling billions of dollars – were passed.

But in the good news column, a recording tax on various property related documents, a tax on carbon emissions and a fireworks tax that would have slammed numerous local non-profit organizations all failed to gain approval this year.

It is not just tax issues that threaten ordinary Californians. Because direct democracy rights – the right of initiative, referendum and recall – are powerful tools in the hands of voting citizens, taxpayer advocates work hard to preserve them. Collectively, these rights represent one of the few ways to deal with an indolent, incompetent or corrupt legislature.

But few elected legislators see it that way. Even some of those who had been counted as taxpayers allies have been eager to undermine the initiative process in order to reassert control by the very politicians against whom the initiative process was designed to protect.

It is important for taxpayers to realize how important the initiative process is. Without it, we never would have been able to enact Prop 13 and tens of thousands of homeowners whose homes were saved would have been forced out onto the street. And it is not just Prop 13. Other HJTA sponsored measures like Prop 218, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, would never have come to fruition without giving those who pay the bills – California taxpayers – the right to enact laws and Constitutional Amendments directly.

So, while this legislative session is over, what does the future portend? As Mark Twain said, “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” In 2015 we can expect renewed attacks both on Proposition 13 and the initiative process. But for now, Proposition 13 continues to stand tall protecting the rights of California taxpayers. And so, for a few short months, we can relax – a little.

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Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Californians Still Believe in Proposition 13 Taxpayer Protections

A statewide survey commissioned by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association shows Californians continue to support Proposition 13 and the two-thirds vote requirement to boost taxes on property owners. By nearly two to one, voters agree that reducing the two-thirds vote to 55% to pass local bonds would place an unfair burden on owners of property.

Tone-deaf legislators have introduced a number of bills in Sacramento that would lower the vote required to pass new special taxes, per parcel property taxes and local bonds. But don’t expect lawmakers to honestly tell the public that these end runs around Proposition 13 are intended to increase taxes. The politicians would have you believe that all they are doing is trying to provide more “local control” for taxpayers. “Local control” sounds great, but examination of these bills reveals they are just schemes to make it easier for politicians and special interests that benefit from greater spending, to take more from taxpayers

Especially menacing to taxpayers is ACA 8, a constitutional amendment being considered in the Senate after narrowly passing the Assembly last year. ACA 8 would lower the currently mandated two-thirds vote threshold for local bonds to 55%, resulting in billions of dollars of new taxes being placed on the backs of property owners.

The Jarvis survey, conducted by the respected polling firm Probolsky Research, showed that if ACA 8 reached the ballot, it would face rough sledding. By a 56% to 31% margin, likely voters in the November 2014 election thought that easing Proposition 13 limits by lowering the two-thirds vote for local bonds would place an unfair burden on property owners. The question posed to respondents was as follows:

“California law requires that local bonds for roads, water projects, transit systems and public buildings be approved by a two-thirds vote of local voters. Unlike state bonds, local bonds are repaid only by property owners with a property tax that is above the one percent cap imposed by Proposition 13. There is a proposal to reduce the vote requirement from two-thirds to 55%, making the bonds much more likely to pass. Which of the following statements most closely matches your view?”

1. “Making it easier to pass these bonds is important so California can rebuild its crumbling infrastructure.”

2. “Making it easier to pass these bonds places an unfair tax burden on property owners. Government needs to do a better job of using the revenue it already receives.”

These poll results are illuminating. Not only do they suggest that voters believe they are overtaxed generally but, when they find out that a proposal like ACA 8 is actually an attack on Proposition 13, they are even less likely to support lowering the two-thirds vote. Should ACA 8 make it to the ballot — something the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is trying hard to prevent — we will make sure voters understand the damage it will inflict on Proposition 13 and property owners if it were to pass.

Average Californians want to see our state thrive and understand that making it much easier to impose higher taxes on homeowners and small business owners would be a move in the wrong direction, especially after taxes were increased by $7 billion annually last year.

The Sacramento lawmakers would be wise to take note that after 36 years, Proposition 13 still enjoys wide support among California voters irrespective of party affiliation.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.