ASSOCIATION CONSIDERS "THE SON OF
MEASURE T", A REPEAT BALLOT MEASURE TO CUT SACRAMENTO CITY'S UTILITY
TAX FROM 7.5% TO 2.5% OVER FIVE YEARS
At its July 21st meeting the Taxpayers League
Board of Directors agreed to reconsider its failed 2002 effort to reduce
the City of Sacramento Utility Users Tax (UUT) on electricity, gas, telephone,
and cable television, and to rebate UUT taxes to all those paying the
tax whose income is less than $25,000. During the campaign, to offset
the popularity of the League's rebate in the 2002 ballot Measure T, the
City passed the rebate provision of Measure T by City Resolution, 13 days
before the election. So we won half the battle before the election ever
The new League Measure WILL NOT REPEAL THE
UTILITY USERS TAX. It will however REDUCE the tax over a five-year period
to two and one-half percent, a level considered affordable to citizens
and businesses throughout the County, and will codify the rebate. A City
Resolution can be altered by the City Council at any time, whereas if
the rebate is made part of an approved Measure it becomes law, and can
only be changed by a vote of the people.
The Board's purpose is to determine whether
a ballot Measure the same as Measure T should be prepared for the 2006
elections. The Board reflected that the City UUT is still THREE TIMES
HIGHER than anywhere else in the County of Sacramento, whereas surrounding
cities such as Davis, Folsom, Rocklin, Galt, Isleton, and West Sacramento
LEVY NO UTILITY TAX AT ALL! This assuredly makes the City UUT inequitable,
and unfair to its citizens. Every time a utility rate is increased, a
piggy-back tax increase occurs.
As a basic premise, the League opposes utility
taxes. They are regressive. They tax necessities, taking a disproportionately
higher percentage of low-income wage earners money than from those more
fortunate in the community. The California State Legislature HAS TWICE
TURNED DOWN SUCH A TAX AS INAPPROPRIATE, notwithstanding budget shortfalls
over the years. They, as we do, reason utilities are necessities, consistent
with exemption of food and medicine from the state sales tax. Therefore,
there should not be EXCESSIVE taxes on utilities, which are also essential.
During the Measure T campaign in November 2002 The Sacramento Bee in an
editorial stated it best when they wrote, "IT'S AN UNDESIREABLE WAY
TO FINANCE CITY OPERATIONS."
So check your walking shoes, because we may
be on the street gathering City of Sacramento signatures again, and soon
HEY CITY PEOPLE, THE CITY OF SACRAMENTO
HAS MONEY FOR YOU!
By Joe Sullivan
The 2002 the Taxpayers League attempt to
reduce the City of Sacramento's Utility Users Tax (UUT) resulted in expansion
of the city's UUT rebate to seniors and disabled rate-payers with annual
incomes of less than $25,000, to all low-income rate-payers with annual
incomes less than $25,000.
On February 13, 2003 the Sacramento city
staff presented the rebate procedure to the City Council, pointing out
that finding the 44,000 people eligible could cost as much as $250,000
of the $3.194 million put in the 2002-2003 budget for the program. The
staff proposed those seeking rebates had to appear in person, with supporting
eligibility information, at one of six city locations open one day each.
The sum total number of hours proposed for all processing centers combined
was 25 for 44,000 people! At the hearing I told the Council the procedure
was deficient, and then sent a League letter stating the program seemed
driven by a desire to identify new beneficiaries by the existing application
filing deadline of the third week in March (with payment in June), established
for seniors and the disabled. Recommended was that new beneficiaries be
identified and paid later in the year. Also recommended was that the mass
mailer describing the rebate opportunity to be sent to all city residents
have a form soliciting information from those who believe they qualified
for the rebate in lieu of asking a mass of people to appear at different
locations throughout the city. Instead, the city added three more locations
and added 4 days of open time for the three, and raised the grand total
time to 41 hours.
During the sign-up process, I was at all
processing centers except one. The result at each was virtually the same.
The first two, oddly, had 79 adults in line when the doors opened. All
people were not individual rebate seekers. Many were husbands and wives,
and sadly, the first day the line had 4 people in wheel chairs accompanied
by helpers and one woman using a walker. At all rebate centers the majority
of the people appeared to be age 50 or more; every line had some in wheel
chairs; and there were relatively few young people. When the last center
closed the final official city count for all centers was 2213 eligible
for year 2002 rebates, only 5% of the estimated 44,000 eligible. The process
was a debacle. Embarrassed, the City extended the sign-up period until
September 2003, but only received 400 more applications. The program to
reach the City's estimate of 44,000 eligible taxpayers had failed.
The Taxpayers League recommended that for
recovery of 2003 taxes during 2004, the City work with the Sacramento
Municipal Utility District (SMUD) to use SMUD's low-income data base to
identify those who may be eligible. The City began working with SMUD.
In 2004, the rebates of 2003 taxes raised to 6,601 recipients. Working
along the same lines, the 2005 tax rebate count this year disappointingly
fell to 5,769. The city continued working with SMUD, and reached an agreement
that beginning next September a joint program would be used in 2006 utilizing
SMUD's present identification of about 16,000 already qualified customers
as low income rate-payers. This should make a quantum jump in the number
of UUT payers getting at least the minimum rebate of $56 a year, or more
next year. And to further improve the program, the city is also working
with Pacific Gas and Electric for their help in identifying people eligible
for the UUT rebate. Notwithstanding a poor beginning, the city has intensified
its efforts to make the rebate program more successful. But the missing
link is communication with the general public, and a problem of identifying
qualified people who pay their utility bills as part of their rent in
individual and multi-family rental facilities. There are over 38,000 City
residents who are potentially eligible for a rebate, but are unidentified.
The rebate program remains a failure.
2005-2006 COUNTY PROPERTY ASSESSMENT
County Assessor Ken Stieger announced that
the 2005-2006 Assessment Roll was completed on July 1st and that the total
assessed value of the combined Secured and Unsecured Tax Rolls in the
County is $106,152,797,789 (net of exemptions).
The new total represents an increase of about
$13.718 billion over the 2004-2005 Assessment Roll, or an increase of
about 14.84 percent in total value. Growth in property taxes reflect increases
of property developed, along with an upturn on the real estate market
over the last seven years. It was reported the 14.84 percent increase
this year is the largest growth rate increase since Proposition 13 was
enacted in 1978.
Assessor Stieger wrote that the completion
of the 2005-2006 roll was accomplished due to the dedication and hard
work of his staff that in addition to completing this roll, serviced approximately
100,000 customers last year.
REDISTRICTING PROPOSITION 77 STUMBLES
Of the Propositions that were on Governor
Schwarzenegger's agenda for change as a result of November's Special Election,
one of the most important was Proposition 77, designed to change the way
political district boundaries are drawn in the state. In 2001, after the
year 2000 census, when the districts were drawn by the Legislature, they
were gerrymandered such that all districts were made "safe"
for the incumbents, be they Democrat or Republican. The proof of this
action was clearly shown when in the ensuing General Elections not a single
incumbent Legislator, who ran for re-election, lost his or her seat.
Proposition 77, designed to take the job
of drawing political boundaries away from the Legislature and assign the
task to a panel of three retired judges, was qualified by Ted Costa of
the People's Advocate, and endorsed by the Governor. On the surface it
seemed to be a shoe-in for passage. But there was a bump in the road
On July 8th Attorney General Bill Lockyer
filed a lawsuit to remove Proposition 77 from the November 8th ballot.
It was found that the Proposition supporters "Fair Districts Now",
had erroneously submitted a different version to the Attorney General's
office for a title and summary, than the one that it had circulated for
signatures and qualified for the ballot. Examination of the two documents
indicate that the differences are minor, but there is no argument that
they are not the same. The error seems to have been that the wrong document
had been sent to the printers.
Notwithstanding the difference, Secretary
of State Bruce McPherson stated he had a "constitutional duty to
present to the voters of California the measures that have qualified to
appear on the ballot by the signatures of the people."
Superior Court Judge Gail Ohanesian ruled
that Proposition 77 should be removed from the ballot. But under appeal,
the decision was temporarily stayed on July 25th by the 3rd District Court
of Appeal, pending a hearing before making a final decision. The future
of Proposition 77 is in limbo. If the court decides to remove the Proposition
from the ballot, there are already rumblings that supporters may repeat
the entire process in 2006 to get it done.
PG&E DISCRIMINATES AGAINST SMUD
By Director Jay O'Brien
I use gas only for heating. During the four
months or more of summer, I close the gas valve and use no gas. In the
past, PG&E would tell me that my gas bill for those months was zero.
PG&E managed to get a new tariff enacted,
effective July 1, 2005. PG&E is now charging me $3.25 per month as
a "minimum transportation charge", even if I use no gas. The
new tariff was enacted lawfully, but PG&E is selectively imposing
it on seasonal gas customers, like me.
I called PG&E to inquire about the new
charge. I was told that if I were also a PG&E electric customer, they
would "close" my gas account, stopping the $3.25/month. Then
when I wanted to use gas again after the summer, they would enable the
gas part of my account. Simple for them to do, and no charge to me.
However, as I do not use PG&E electricity,
if they close the gas account, after 30days the account would be deleted.
I would then have to re-qualify as a customer, providing PG&E permission
to do a credit check. I would then have to go through the hassle of re-establishing
my automatic debit arrangement with my bank that allows PG&E to automatically
obtain payment from my bank account.
I feel that if PG&E will keep the gas
account open beyond the 30 days for the electric customers, allowing them
to avoid the transportation charge, they should do the same for me. It
is worth $3.25 per month to me to me to avoid the credit check and bank
issue. However, if the ability to suspend the $3.25 is available to the
PG&E customers, it should be available to me. I have mailed a complaint
to the CPUC. Check your PG&E bill!
SACRAMENTO CITY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
CONSIDERS USING NON-COMPETITIVE CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTS
The Sacramento Bee reported the City Unified
School District is struggling with an issue as to whether a labor accord
known as a "project stabilization agreement" should be established
which "would limit the kinds of contractors who can work on large
construction projects in the school district, requiring that union workers
be hired or union-like conditions be provided." This would make such
Fortunately, The Bee advised "the bond
oversight committee, charged with monitoring how the district spends voter-approved
bond money, strongly opposes the agreement--" "At stake is $191
million in construction money that remains from bond measures voters passed
in 1999 and 2002, when they agreed to raise their property taxes so that
the district could build new schools and upgrade existing campuses."
The school board voted 5-1 to begin preparing
a labor agreement, and hiring a consultant to study its impact. The Association's
Vice President Jonathan Coupal, speaking as President of the Howard Jarvis
Taxpayers Association, opposed the proposed labor agreement, believing
it to be a material breach of the agreement made with the voters by putting
Measures I and E on the ballot.
From the League's standpoint, Secretary Joe
Sullivan, expressed agreement with Coupal, citing experience as Deputy
Director of the Directorate of Competition Advocacy at McClellan AFB.
Joe was selected as principal civilian at McClellan to form a Directorate
to overcome non-competitive features in government contracting that was
part of the rampant Department of Defense over-priced non-competitive
contracting scandals in the 1970s and '80s. Joe says "keep you hand
on your wallet, 'cause its d'eja' vu all over again."
LETTERS TO THE ASSOCIATION
We seek “Letters to the League”
from Members concerning projects and issues on which we are working, along
with recommendations on those we should look at. Letters may be edited
and republished in any format, primarily in the interest of available
space. Send letters, faxes, or e-mail to the Sacramento Taxpayers Association. Our e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org;
our telephone number is (916) 921-5991. Our fax number is (916) 567-1279.
And our address is:
Sacramento Taxpayers Association
1804 Tribute Road, Suite 207
Sacramento, CA 95815.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR'S MESSAGE
(The following is extracted from Bill Leonard,
who is a member of the State Board of Equalization. I couldn't have said
it better myself, so I didn't. It's a great illustration that in government,
it is too easy to jump to conclusions-and that in wise government, principal
must rule over circumstantial self-interest.)
The Los Angeles Times reports that union
bosses are firing back at the Paycheck Protection Initiative (Proposition
75) by proposing an initiative to bar corporations from spending on election
campaigns without shareholder approval. Proposition 75 would simply require
public employee unions to obtain permission from their members before
taking money out of their paychecks to spend on political campaigns.
The unions argue "what's good for the
goose is good for the gander," and they may have a point. Perhaps
shareholders should be given the right to decide whether corporation funds
should be spent on political candidates and campaigns. Just as it is fundamentally
unfair to force union members to fund campaigns to which they are opposed,
it also seems unfair to force corporate investors to fund campaigns against
their will. In our American scheme of campaign financing, it makes sense
to expect campaigns to eaise money from people who agree with them; coerced
money is tyrannical and unnecessary.
Of course, some will argue this reform will
hurt Republicans. The unions seem to think so, but they are wrong. Despite
the long-standing myth that corporate campaign spending favor Republican
candidates, the opposite is true. Like most other campaign donors, corporations
seek to influence those in power. In California, the people in power are
mostly Democrats, so they receive the lion's share of the donations. This
has been true for generations, but the perception has not caught up with
Regardless of who might benefit from this
proposed reform, it merits a healthy discussion that we should all welcome.
Our political campaigns should not rely on coerced contributions and unwilling