GOVERNOR DAVIS SIGNS BINDING ARBITRATION
BILL SB 402
By the stroke of a pen, Governor Davis took
away the budgetary control of every elected county supervisor and city
council member in the state of California. He signed the malevolent Senate
Bill SB 402 authored by Senator John Burton and supported by Assemblyman
Antonio Villaraigosa. The bill gives the right of utilizing binding arbitration
of labor disputes to unions representing local firefighters, police and
sheriffs. The Sacramento Bee stated that, "Under its provisions powerful
police and firefighters unions that don't like the pay and benefits an
elected city council offers them can turn to an arbitrator - elected by
no one and accountable to no one - to negotiate their contract. The law
reduces local elected officials and voters to meaningless bystanders,
spectators who sit idly by waiting for the arbitrator to tell them how
much of the city's or county's budget will be left for citizens to control."
The Bee is exactly right. It reflected the rationale used by the Sacramento
Taxpayers Association in past actions taken to oppose this approach
to labor relations, and the League will continue to oppose such an approach
in the future.
Locally, when the sheriff's union was successful
in passing such a measure, the League joined with the Sacramento Metro
Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Supervisors to pass a companion protective
measure that requires voter approval of any decision resulting from such
binding arbitration. The Associationof Cities in the state believes the law
to be unconstitutional and intends to sue to keep it from being enforced.
The Taxpayers League Board will be asked whether we should join with the
cities, along with other taxpayer organizations in the state, in the effort
to reverse this onerous action by the Governor.
OIL EXPLORATION IN THE ARCTIC NATIONAL
Many words are being spoken about the environmental
impact of opening the Alaskan oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
to oil exploration and production. It is estimated that it contains 9.2
to 16 billion barrels of oil. Environmentalists have successfully prevented
drilling in the region, and one of the complaints appears to be that such
drilling and producing of oil will convert a "pristine wilderness into
an ugly oil field." Such a contention is a little bizarre. The refuge
covers about 19 million acres of which drilling operations would involve
only about 1.5 million acres in the coastal plain of the far northeastern
corner near the Beaufort Sea. And the oil companies go to extraordinary
lengths to protect the Alaskan tundra, making sure that they literally
obliterate the marks of human intervention. Considering the remoteness
of the area, it would be interesting to try to find out how many people
are planning visits to the region soon.
SALES TAX TO BE REDUCED JAN. 1 ST
The state sales tax will be reduced a quarter-cent
beginning January 1 st because tax revenues will exceed estimates for
two years in a row. This is a legal requirement stemming from a section
of the bill that put a statewide sales tax increase in place in 1991.
The bill had two requirements that govern a sales tax decrease. The state
has to end a fiscal year on June 30 th with a reserve (excess taxes) of
more than 4 percent of its General Fund, followed by a projection by the
state finance director that the state will also exceed the 4 percent reserve
in the following year. This past fiscal year the reserve (extra taxes)
was nearly 10 percent of the General Fund, and for next year it is projected
that the excess taxes will easily pass the 4 percent level. League Member
Ted Costa, in his role as Chief Executive Officer of the People's Advocate
pointed out to the state that it had ignored this provision of the law
in the past, and pressed the issue.
TAX REDUCTION! We rarely see these
words in the state of California, unless it is fought for by tax fighting
organizations such as the Peoples Advocate or the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers
Association. On the local level, when the Sacramento Taxpayers Associationformed and led the Coalition that defeated Measure M, the county's
attempt to raise the sales tax one-quarter cent, we learned the increase
in local sales tax would take $30 million out of the pockets of taxpayers
every year. So, on behalf of all Sacramento's taxpayers, THANKS TED, FOR
SAVING US $30.
MILLION NEXT YEAR!
Our Members constitute the League's strength
and Members provide coverage on many issues we try to resolve. And toward
that end we welcome the following new Members to the 39-year-old Taxpayers
- Nancy Dalgardo
- Bill Shepherd
- Ebba Calkins and
- Citrus Heights Councilman Bret Daniels
We receive no outside funding other than
membership dues and membership donations to our defense fund. We are always
in search of new members to build our strength. In the next two years
the League will be part of, or in charge of, some of the most serious
battles we have ever been engaged in involving taxpayers protection. These
fights will be at the local level, and also on the statewide stage as
one of the lead taxpayer organization sponsoring a statewide initiative
for the benefit of all taxpaying property owners. To win through on these
endeavors we are asking all members to help by recruiting new members.
The last page of the Tax Fax has a form for this purpose. Please call
(916) 921-5991 if you have someone you believe would be interested in
becoming a Member of the Taxpayers League.
LETTERS TO THE ASSOCIATION
We seek "Letters to the League" from members
on present projects and issues on which we are working, and recommendations
on those we should look at. Send letters to:
Sacramento Taxpayers Association
1832 Tribute Road, #210
Sacramento, CA 95815.
The Associationreceived an interesting letter
and set of questions from a reader regarding support of Proposition 38,
School vouchers. The interesting feature of the letter was that it questioned
vouchers from an entirely different standpoint than the standard boilerplate
ground out by those supporting r opposing the Proposition. And it touched
on sensitive areas not addressed by either side. Questioned was the support
of school vouchers from the standpoint of one who intentionally pays to
place a child in a private school specifically for exposure to higher
standards of education, and to a climate of biblical moral values and
behavior by both staff and students in church owned schools.
The fear is that vouchers, by providing a
state supported legal system revised to put anyone in private schools,
could inadvertently introduce all the harmful influences that go on in
public schools, as is readily seen in our public junior and senior high
schools. Pointed out was the possibility that lawsuits ill pummel private
schools if they refuse voucher students. Among questions asked was what
happens with voucher money if a child gets expelled? What happens if a
school accepts non-voucher students before voucher students? Will voucher
money be used to expand schools? What if the private school only wants
to hire staff with certain religious beliefs - will that be changed to
accommodate voucher kids? The key question is how much control will the
government have over any school receiving government voucher money?
It was pointed out by the letter writer that
private schools not only have a high standard for education, but also
have more fundamental differences between them and the public sector that
go beyond education. Contended was that religious people aren't held in
high regard by their more liberal counterparts, and asked was whether
government and all parents of voucher kids would really subject themselves
to the more conservative and religious manner found in most private religious
schools? A fear expressed was that trying to make private education accessible
to every child can't happen without grave damage and government control
to private school sectors. Given such control the private schools would
eventually look like public schools.
Part of the answer to the letter writer appeared
in an Opinion editorial by the Pacific Justice Institute. Attorney Brad
Dacus of the Institute wrote, "Some of you reading this article have probably
heard some scary radio ads describing how Prop 8 is going to subject private
schools to dastardly government control and inhibit religious schools
from evangelizing. Nothing can be further from the truth! The truth: Prop
38 provides unprecedented protection for all private schools in he state
of California. Here's how. First, any and all future regulations of private
schools by the state legislature will require a 3/4 vote of both houses
of the state legislature. With regard to local governments, all local
regulations would require a 2/3rds majority vote and a majority of qualified
lectors. (In addition, local regulations must not, among other things,
unduly burden or impede private schools or the parents of students, suppress
private schools, or parents' freedoms to make decisions on whether the
child attends a public or private school.) Most importantly, land use
regulations would become virtually inapplicable to private schools - opening
the door for an unparalleled explosion of few private religious schools
at churches and other facilities." He added, "Maybe that's why the Association
of Christian Schools International (ACSI) has openly endorsed his initiative."
The letter made clear that the writer has
put a lot of thought into the voucher recommendation, and is worried about
some of its impacts. The Proposition should have been given careful consideration
before blithely punching a hole in the ballot card.
MILKING THE PUBLIC CASH COW - EXPANDED
Note: This article was prepared as an Opinion
piece in answer to interest expressed by the publisher of the Sacramento
monthly newspaper Inside the City. It expands an article in the September
2000 issue of the Tax Fax. The Sacramento Taxpayers Association has
always been opposed to city and county elected officials acting like bankers,
using Sacramento taxpayers as guarantors of loans made to private investors,
and as providers of selective direct and tax subsidies to commercial enterprises.
The City, for example, has been banker for
ventures such as the office building across from the convention center,
Packard Bell NEC in the closed Army Depot, and now is providing a $2.9
million subsidy for a hotel on the waterfront. It is also preparing to
buy the Woolworth building downtown to give a news service company time
to come up with the money to buy the building from the City. In addition
they have given tax rebates and loans to help and keep companies in town.
They provided a 5-year $152,000 tax rebate to Ebara Technologies Inc.,
a $73 million loan to the Kings, and similar deals to others to stay in
town. And such deals are not peculiar to the City.
Deals are also made by Sacramento County.
Paul Hahn, Director of Sacramento County's Department of Economic Development
once said that he would rather not offer economic incentives, but added,
"They are a necessary evil." The County offers new companies rebates on
the County's share of a company's property taxes on equipment, and a rebate
of the county's 2.5% utilities tax, both for a period of 5 years. To receive
these benefits companies must demonstrate that they will bring in at least
50 new obs worth over $25,000 a year each. To convince companies that
plan to leave the County to stay, they offer the similar incentives, but
the companies must agree to stay at least 10 years. Rationale behind such
deals is termed by some as "Corporate Welfare".
Conversely, those generating the deals term
them ecessities aimed at attracting or expanding new businesses and regional
developments, and retaining existing companies. They cite as benefits
the jobs generated, and the related tax revenues that flow from the enterprises
and those that they employ. Among the most egregious of methods being
used to divert taxpayer money into questionable areas is formation of
Redevelopment Agencies, originally designed to assist cities in cleaning
up inner-city neighborhoods. These have been termed "The Unknown Government".
Redevelopment Agencies can be created without a vote of the citizens affected,
and can incur bonded indebtedness without voter's approval, notwithstanding
the existence of Proposition 218. RedevelopmentAgencies
consume more than 8% of all property taxes statewide, and have developed
a massive public debt with little public awareness or oversight. Unlike
other levels of government, they can use the power of eminent domain to
benefit private interests.
The Agencies, created by counties and cities,
are governed by appointees of the city councils or board of supervisors,
whom often appoint themselves as the Agency governing members. Such Agencies
are an entirely separate government authority, with their own agenda,
revenue, staff, and expanded powers enabling them to issue bonds and condemn
public property. In recent years such Agencies have been loosely used
to expand a city's tax base rather than to correct in-city blighted areas.
Dan Walters, in his Sacramento Bee October
7 th article "Cities playing a blight game" pointed out one that has all
these earmarks. To quote Walters, "the City of Sacramento proposed a new
redevelopment zone linking a marginally blighted residential and commercial
area along Northgate Boulevard to some vacant fields alongside Interstate
80 - land the city wants to develop into a tax producing auto mall. The
proposed mall would attract dealers ensconced along Fulton Avenue, an
unincorporated area whose taxes now flow into county coffers."
What is not emphasized in all these activities
is, as former Labor Secretary Robert Reich once called, "a vast zero-sum
game. They rob the public of funds that otherwise could be used for better
schools and roads." The practice of providing loans,
exemptions, and rebates, even though they involve using public money,
are usually conducted in secrecy, with the public in the dark as to how
their money is being handled, or the manner in which they are being indebted.
The public is often advised after the deals are made, and as a result,
are committed to financial risk without input. And that's why we object.
TRUTH IN ADVERTISING, EXCEPT FOR PROPOSITIONS
Without a doubt, the sum total of the TV,
radio, mail-outs and flyers advertising either side of virtually every
Proposition on the November ballot are so packed with distortions and
outright lies aimed at deceiving the public, that they are ludicrous.
Voters should be offended by every one offered, and if wise, should have
carefully read the Propositions in state and county provided official
voter's information pamphlets. Then, they could have made up their own
minds as to a position. And the worst of the lot of distortions are flashy,
slick, slate mailers, with grand sounding names, implying they represent
long standing (actually non-existent) organizations which have carefully
reviewed each issue and made a grave decision
as to what and who you should vote for. Actually, they are prepared by
hacks, who surface before every election, and canvas backers and opponents
of each Proposition, or elected position, for money to put their positions,
and names, in these spurious completely useless documents. When they are
received, they should have been checked for the asterisk behind the stated
positions on the Propositions, or so-called "selected" candidates' names.
If there, it was paid for by whoever put up the buck first.
For fun, I'll point out what I believe, in
my absolutely prejudiced opinion, were a couple of the most flagrant misrepresentations
of the Propositions. On Proposition 34, the Veteran's Home and Loans,
it was contended that just because a member of the armed forces wore a
uniform they might not be a "veteran" and should not get a loan. Wrong,
the dictionary defines a veteran as "a former member of the armed forces".
During War II, I spent 18 months in Italy among loud noises and broken
furniture, while a friend, Frank DiMazo, who entered the Army at the same
time I did, never got more than 40 miles from home in three years. He
spent his entire war service as a Military Policeman patrolling the seamiest
sections in New York City. And I guarantee
he was in more danger than I on almost any given day!
Our pet peeve, the supporters of Proposition
39 were the most disingenuous of all. Never once did they mention their
aim was to change the state's Constitutional protection of property owners.
Instead they threw in everything, kids, mom, apple pie, feeding the family
pet, and the grand old flag. This time the same crowd changed their name.
When Proposition 26 (same subject as 39) was defeated last March, they
were the "National Taxpayers Alliance" a phantom group unknown to any
major taxpayer organization in the U.S. For Proposition 39, effectively
the same bunch reinvented themselves as "The Taxpayers for Accountability
and Better Schools." Membership? Millionaires Reed Hastings, John Doerr
and few f their friends. So much for truth in advertising!
TAXES TO WATCH
Proposition 39 - A copycat Proposition
to Proposition 26, defeated by the state's voters last March is on
the November 7th ballot as Proposition 39. Proposition 39, financed
by a number of Silicon Valley multi-millionaires, will once again
try to change the state's Constitutional two-thirds vote requirement
to pass local school bonds. This time the vote target is 55% in lieu
of a simple majority.
Sacramento Utility and Transient Occupancy
Taxes - The Taxpayers League has filed a lawsuit in Superior Court
challenging the creation of the Utility Tax in 1991, and the increase
in the Transient Occupancy Tax (Hotel Tax) in 1994, as violations
of Proposition 62. Neither of these taxes was submitted to the voters
for approval as required by law. A final resolution on the lawsuit
is on hold, pending a California Supreme Court decision on two other
lawsuits to resolve a question on the Statute of Limitations for Proposition
City Bond Measure for Theater Improvements
-A combination of the City Council and the Board of Supervisors has
approved an agreement to pay for $11.4 million in bonds for major
improvements of the Music Circus and the theaters at 15 th and H streets.
The cost has increased from the $8.2 million conceptually approved
last year. Final approval of the bond issue is scheduled for next
January. (Also see Page 5)
AB 484 - This bill was signed by the
Governor and is devised to take state General Funds and give local
government agencies up to $300 thousand to subsidize Movie Industry
filming activities. Consider that the state takes our local property
taxes under ERAF, allegedly for schools, puts ERAF funds in the General
Fund, and then uses General Fund money to subsidize the Movie Industry
through local governments. This is a warped concept, and is grist
for the mill aimed at removing control of property taxes from the
state, and returning the property taxes to local control.
This feature of TAX FAX is published monthly
to keep you up-to-date.