Why raise property taxes when revenues are way up?

By Jon Coupal | During this past summer there were dozens of media stories about big increases in property tax revenues. Orange County was typical. The taxable value of real estate went up $33 billion to over $600 billion. Assessments increased in all of Orange County’s 34 cities.

A weekly column by Jon Coupal

Further north, San Mateo County saw a 7.1% increase in its assessment roll for 2019-2020, the ninth consecutive year of increases. County Assessor Mark Church, in a press release, said there was record growth in commercial and mixed-use development which helped to push the total roll value to a new high.

Other counties showed similar gains: Santa Clara County, up 6.79% to $516 billion; Sacramento County, up 6.53% to $179 billion; Alameda County, up 7.13% to $321 billion; Fresno County, up 5.84% to $90.46 billion; and even Sonoma and Napa Counties saw big increases in assessed values notwithstanding losing over 5,600 structures to the horrific fires of 2017.

All told, statewide assessable property is now worth $6.5 trillion with just last year’s increase resulting in $75 billion in revenue, a 15-fold increase since 1978. All these increases belie the argument advanced by progressives that Proposition 13, which limits increases in taxable values and caps the property tax rate at one percent, has somehow “starved” local governments and schools for revenue.

To read the entire column, please click here.

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Fullerton City Hall is closed today in honor of Veterans Day

City Hall Closure Dates and
Observed Holidays

2019
January –1*, 11, 25
February – 8, 18*, 22
March – 8, 22
April – 5, 19
May – 3, 17, 27*, 31
June – 14, 28
July – 4*, 12, 26
August – 9, 23
September – 2*, 6, 20
October – 4, 18
November – 1, 11*, 15, 28*, 29*
December – 13, 24*, 25*, 26^,27^, 31*

*Holiday observed
^Winter Closure

Fullerton City Hall
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Reflections on Veterans Day

By Carl M. Cannon | It’s Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. The First World War ended on this date when a cease-fire was forged between the Allies and Germany, taking effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. The following year, Armistice Day (or Remembrance Day) was observed in Great Britain, France, and the United States.

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory,” said President Woodrow Wilson.

In time, the name of the commemoration was changed to Veterans Day, an alteration necessitated by the simple fact that “the war to end war” had done no such thing.

Woodrow Wilson is remembered today for his arduous and ultimately unsuccessful efforts to get the United States to join a new League of Nations. The organization was a forerunner to the United Nations and its failure to gain traction was a harbinger of the coming of World War II.

In Wilson’s time, the first great world conflict wasn’t punctuated with a Roman numeral. World War I was known simply as “The Great War.” But the failure of the major nations to agree on an ongoing international framework, coupled with the punitive postwar conditions imposed on Germany by the Allies at Versailles, undermined the armistice and led to even more unimaginable horror.

“After the ‘war to end war,’” British Gen. Archibald Wavell noted with foreboding, “they seem to have been pretty successful in Paris at making the ‘peace to end peace.’”

There’s that phrase again. It’s associated with Wilson (and usually rendered as “the war to end all wars”) but the words are not his. Both phrases are slight corruptions of the title of a 1914 book by British writer H.G. Wells, “The War That Will End War.” Wilson did express this sentiment, telling Congress that he hoped the gruesome conflict Americans were about to enter would be “the final war.” And in his April 2, 1917 speech to a joint session of Congress, Wilson voiced a rationale expressed by many U.S. presidents since that time. “The world,” he said, “must be made safe for democracy.”

Wilson added another idea, one also emphasized by American military men through the decades: The United States wasn’t trying to subjugate other peoples. It certainly wasn’t after land for itself. “We have no selfish ends to serve,” he said. “We desire no conquest, no dominion.”

Other nations do not always believe this and some pampered elites in this country scoff at the very principle of military service. But American combat veterans and Wilson’s successor commanders-in-chief point to the U.S. military cemeteries in Europe to substantiate the point.

Colin Powell made it in 2003 and U.S. Army Gen. Mark Clark did so in 1950. Clark had returned to Italy, five years after World War II was won. It was Memorial Day, as it happened, and Clark was there with his wife.

“We visited the American cemetery at Anzio and saw the curving rows of white crosses that spoke so eloquently of the price that America and her Allies had paid for the liberation of Italy,” he wrote. “If ever proof was needed that we fought for a cause and not for conquest, it could be found in these cemeteries. Here was our only conquest: All we asked of Italy was enough of her soil to bury our gallant dead.” 

Carl M. Cannon is Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics.

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California’s Berlin Wall

By David Crane | To understand California’s publicly-funded school system, it helps to understand federally-funded health insurance. Both Medicare and the Veterans Administration are government-funded insurers but the VA is also a government-operated health care provider. While Medicare enrollees may freely choose among health care providers, VA enrollees may choose a non-VA provider only in limited cases. 

California has a VA-style public school system. Currently only 10 percent of California’s six million public school students attend non-government-operated schools, all of which are required under California law to be operated by non-profit organizations and many of which have wait lists. The other 90 percent attend government-operated schools.

David Crane

Because of poor VA service, recently the federal government made it easier for veterans to see a non-VA doctor. But despite poor service by California’s government-operated schools, this year the state enacted a law making it harder to form non-government-operated schools.

The choice permitted by Medicare is one reason some candidates for president and many elected California officials promote Medicare-for-All but not VA-for-All. One would hope they could see the inconsistency of embracing choice for Medicare enrollees but not public school families. But as the new law demonstrates, that is not yet the case.

30 years ago today Berliners razed a wall that had stopped eastern residents of their city from fleeing an oppressive government. This year our state raised a wall that stops our fellow residents from fleeing poorly-performing government-operated schools. Now the state has an even greater obligation to make government-operated schools work well for those residents. 

To start, the state legislature and governor should (1) repeal laws requiring government-operated schools to offer lifetime employment and to lay off employees in reverse seniority, (2) make it easier for principals and school boards to terminate underperforming employees, to disproportionately reward employees who perform better or teach tougher subjects or in more demanding districts, and to suspend automatic pension benefit increases, and (3) require government-operated schools to adopt standardized and cost-effective health insurance plans and to means-test post-employment insurance subsidies.

State legislators and the governor have no greater nor more solemn responsibility than making K-12 public education work well. K-12 is their largest expenditure. They write the Education Code. Only they have the power to make excellent a service that parents consider absolutely critical to their children’s futures. 

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The dirty tricks to increase your taxes

By Jon Coupal | Perhaps California’s political structure hasn’t quite devolved into the kind of despotic regime like we see in North Korea or Venezuela, but that doesn’t mean we’re not headed in that direction. As reported last week in this column, the attack on Proposition 13 is now in full gear as proponents of the infamous “split roll” initiative are on the streets collecting signatures for their new $12 billion property tax increase on Californians.

A weekly column by Jon Coupal

The measure, entitled the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act of 2020, would remove one of Proposition 13’s most important protections, the limitation on annual increases in taxable value, from commercial properties. Proponents of the measure have made it clear that their ultimate objective is the full dismantling of Prop. 13, even for homeowners. Taxpayers and businesses are ready for a tough battle, but there remains an open question about what happens when the other side cheats. Two things happened lately that reflect the tax-and-spend lobby’s “win at any cost” mindset.

First, with an assist from a politically biased politician serving in the Attorney General’s office, proponents were able to secure a one-sided title and summary to the signature petitions.

The title and summary that Xavier Becerra issued on Oct. 17 begins by emphasizing higher funding for education, a main selling point that is popular among voters. This title differs from the original version of a similar measure that highlighted the tax implication for commercial property — something a recent poll suggests would be rejected by voters.

To read the entire column, please click here.

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Split roll can’t fix what ails California

By Jon Coupal | After several fits and starts, the battle over the defense of Proposition 13 began in earnest last week as progressive interest groups began gathering signatures for their new and hardly improved ballot measure to impose a multi-billion dollar “split roll” property tax on Californians. These same tax-and-spend interests had already qualified a previous version of their initiative for the 2020 ballot until they realized that it was full of drafting errors and were forced to try to replace it.

A weekly column by Jon Coupal

The proponents’ revised measure is no improvement and still represents the largest tax increase in the history of California. But that’s not what they will tell voters as they seek more than one million signatures to qualify the initiative. Indeed, their deception began immediately as their signature gatherers are already telling people that the property tax increase actually protects Prop. 13.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

It is important for voters to understand the proposal. Here are the basics and why they should fear it. “Split roll” is a shorthand term for proposed changes to Prop. 13 that would allow higher property taxes on businesses than on homeowners. The “roll” is the county assessor’s property tax roll, the list of all real estate parcels that are subject to property taxes. “Split” refers to a division into two parts: residential and nonresidential property.

Under Prop. 13, which became part of the state constitution when voters approved it in 1978, all property in California is assessed under the same rules and taxed at the same rate. The tax rate is 1 percent, and the assessment is set at the property’s fair market value, usually the sale price, at the time it changes ownership. Thereafter, Prop. 13 limits increases in the assessed value to 2 percent per year or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower, until the property changes ownership again.

The initiative would revoke Prop. 13’s protection from nonresidential business and commercial property and require the reassessment of those properties to current market value. This would result in a tax increase on office buildings, retail stores, shopping malls, movie theaters, gas stations, supermarkets, warehouses, auto dealerships, car washes, restaurants, hotels and every other business in the state. Even very small businesses that lease space in a strip mall would see their operating costs jump sharply as a result of tax increases passed. The cost of living, already high in California, would be pushed even higher by this tax increase.

To read the entire column, please click here.

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Newsom makes a few good moves

By Jon Coupal | There is little debate that California is a harsh, anti-taxpayer environment ruled by a tax-happy majority party.  However, in this super-partisan environment that grips both California and the entire nation, it is important to point out when our political adversaries do something positive.

In that spirit, let’s acknowledge what Gov. Gavin Newsom did right for California’s taxpayers.

A weekly column by Jon Coupal

First, he vetoed Senate Bill 268, which would have weakened important tax transparency laws that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association fought hard to enact several years ago. Specifically, SB268 sought to alter Assembly Bill 809 and AB195 (2015-2016) which, taken together, require that the rate of a tax, its duration, and amount of money sought to be raised be included in the ballot label for local bond and special tax measures, including parcel taxes. That ensures that this critical information is visible to voters on the ballot itself, and not just printed in a separate voter information pamphlet.

The ballot label is commonly the last thing taxpayers see before voting on a measure, and is the most accessible way to reach voters. SB268 would have removed this information for local bonds and some parcel taxes, to instead bury it in the voter information guide, far from the eyes of most voters.

To read the entire column, please click here.

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Newsom’s gas-tax switcheroo

By Steven Greenhut | “Never give the bastards more money,” a friend always says when discussing proposed tax increases. “They’ll only squander it.” That also epitomizes my philosophy over decades of voting and writing about ballot initiatives and bonds. I always recommend a “no” vote, even if the proposal would fund legitimate and badly needed infrastructure projects — and especially if tax supporters hysterically predict the end of civilization if the measure fails.

Steven Greenhut

California voters almost always ignore such advice. Few people track the spending priorities of government officials after voters grant them the cash. After the Santa Ana Unified School District convinced residents to pass a bond to upgrade its overcrowded schools, the board immediately approved a “project labor agreement” that gave union contractors a monopoly over construction. That squandered 10 percent to 20 percent of the budget for nothing (other than winning union favor), and the district could only upgrade five of the 13 promised schools. It’s sadly typical.

My favorite local example involved the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District, which scared the heck out of residents about West Nile virus and an encroaching menace: the red imported fire ant. Such pests could be handled by, say, calling an exterminator if you found a nest in your back yard. Instead, voters gave the district more money. Its main priority after the increase was to increase its workers’ pensions by 62 percent. A few years later, the agency tried to spend from $1 million to $10 million hatching a mosquito museum.

It’s even worse at the state level, of course. In 2017, California lawmakers decided to finally do something about the state’s overburdened infrastructure of roads, freeways, and bridges. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown muscled the Legislature into passing increases in gas and diesel taxes and a significant boost in vehicle-license fees. Brown had a nasty habit of holding transportation funding hostage during budget negotiations. To most of us, roads should be at the top of a state’s funding priorities, but instead Democratic officials prefer to ignore them — and then claim that there wasn’t enough money to expand capacity without a tax hike.

The Legislature passed Senate Bill 1 to boost taxes to pay for such funding, as poor road conditions had been stirring up a public furor.

To read the entire column in The American Spectator, please click here.

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Fullerton City Hall is closed today for another three-day weekend

City Hall Closure Dates and
Observed Holidays

2019
January –1*, 11, 25
February – 8, 18*, 22
March – 8, 22
April – 5, 19
May – 3, 17, 27*, 31
June – 14, 28
July – 4*, 12, 26
August – 9, 23
September – 2*, 6, 20
October – 4, 18
November – 1, 11*, 15, 28*, 29*
December – 13, 24*, 25*, 26^,27^, 31*

*Holiday observed
^Winter Closure

Fullerton City Hall
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The gas tax bait-and-switch

By Jon Coupal | Cassandra of Greek mythology was blessed with the gift of prophecy and doomed by the curse that no one would ever believe her.

Conservatives in California know just how she felt.

A weekly column by Jon Coupal

California’s modern day Cassandras have repeatedly warned about the misuse and diversion of public funds for roads and highways. In no other area have California voters been lied to more frequently and more brazenly than with transportation spending.

Nearly 30 years ago, voters were told that California’s roads, freeways and bridges were crumbling and that spending on transportation was so seriously inadequate that a gas tax increase and other taxes were desperately needed to save California from ruin.

Based on the promises from special interests — in a very well-funded political campaign — in 1990 voters approved in Proposition 111, a 9-cents-a-gallon tax increase combined with a 55 percent increase in truck weight fees.

Demonstrating that not much has changed in three decades, promoters of Prop. 111 trotted out long lists of projects that would be completed with the billions of dollars in new revenue. Advertising focused on the benefits of Proposition 111, without ever mentioning taxes.

Sound familiar?

Fast forward to 2017 with the infamous passage of Senate Bill 1, a massive tax increase of another 12 cents per gallon on gasoline, an additional 20 cents per gallon on diesel fuel and a sharp increase in the cost of vehicle registration.

To read the entire column, please click here.

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