By Jon Coupal and Jay Obernolte | Just two weeks ago, this column exposed the abject lack of transparency in the state budget process. But the way the Legislature enacts its spending plan is just one of many ways Sacramento politicians attack transparency.
In recent years, taxpayer advocacy groups have pushed for greater disclosures in local bond and tax measures. These efforts received bipartisan support as they were simply good government bills. Assembly Bill 809 and AB 195 were authored by Assemblyman Jay Obernolte in 2015 and 2016. Taken together, these bills require that the tax rate, duration and amount of revenue to be raised by a tax or bond measure must be revealed on the 75-word ballot label, as opposed to being buried deep in the pages of the sample ballot booklet. This places the most critical information about a tax proposal in a place where voters will actually see it.
But tax-and-spend interests, mostly public-sector labor organizations, have never liked transparency and now, with their influence in the legislature greater than ever, seek to keep voters in the dark on local fiscal measures on the ballot. Senate Bill 268 by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would undermine the previous bipartisan legislation to the detriment of voters. SB268 upends the HJTA-backed, common-sense legislation by stating that for local bond measures, as well as certain taxes, the critical information will be moved off the ballot label and into the sample ballot. For such measures, the ballot label would include a statement reading, “See voter guide for information.” That’s more annoying than helpful to voters.
Adding insult to injury, SB268 is being advanced through the infamous “gut-and-amend” process whereby bills are stripped of all content and new language is inserted in order to bypass public and media oversight.
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