Betty Arenson | California: The Dream and the Nightmare

SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
SCV Voices: Guest Commentary

A radio segment of July 20 announced that one-half of Californians say they cannot afford to live in California anymore. The misery is due to expensive housing, over-regulation, and high taxes of all kinds. You care but it’s a visible guarantee that Sacramento’s supermajority and Gov. Gavin Newsom do not care.

The addicted tax-and-spenders continue to tinker with eliminating Proposition 13. Prop. 13 set a 1% tax on the assessed value of, for one, real estate property; numbers as high as 2.6% have been floated to replace the existing 1% should the addicted tax-and-spenders have their way.

The super-majority is easing into Prop. 13’s total abolishment with first eliminating it for commercial properties. People need to realize when business prices increase so do the costs of goods and services, thus consumers will pay for those increases. 

Here’s what’s next with the commercial bite: the definition of “commercial.” The tax addicts will have license to call a mom-and-pop rental house commercial; ditto for apartment buildings. The next step is our homes. Smart consumers call it “the slippery slope.” The addicted call it “incremental.” 

Presently there are Assembly and Senate constitutional amendments passing through the Legislature. All are Democrat-authored and driven. 

Assembly Constitutional Amendment 1 greases the way for the supermajority to obliterate the Prop. 13 mandate that requires a two-thirds majority to increase taxes. ACA1 lowers the threshold to 55%. At their will and discretion they’ll propel “new or higher special tax to fund “infrastructure” or “affordable housing,” etc. 

Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 lowers the two-thirds threshold to 55% with regard to school district parcel taxes. This will cede a lot of power to school districts to pass extra parcel and local taxes on all of us with the mind-numbing “for the kids.” Be mindful that every voter decides these amendments and taxes but only the property owners are legally required to pay. Undoubtedly such indebtedness will be passed onto tenants, but many fail to consider that.

With the imposed extra 18-cents-per-gallon fuel tax since 2017, California now has the highest state and local taxes on gasoline in the nation at 57.8 cents per gallon. 

Once again voters were naïve, falling for the “we’ll fix the roads” deception. Read the text of SB1 that raised taxes without voter approval and you’ll find no requirements to spend any significant amount of money on road repair. In fact it’s minuscule.

Officials estimated SB1 would garner $5.4 billion annually for 10 years of “transportation funding.” They now claim $130 billion is needed for repairs. It’s a $76-billion shortage out of the gate. 

The tax does not expire after 10 years and will continue to grow with the cost of living in future decades.

States benefit from federal dollars (claimed) for infrastructure repairs. A May 14 report by Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America, assesses a “flawed system….as there are ‘no requirements for states to actually repair our crumbling roads and bridges’ and no guarantees that any of us would have an easier time getting from A to B when all that money has been spent” — $61 billion each year on highways and transit systems. 

• 2009-2017, the percentage of the roads nationwide in poor condition increased from 14% to 20%. 

• 2009-2014, despite those improvements, states still spend as much on expansion as repair — states spent $21.4 billion (average) on road repair annually and $21.3 billion annually on road expansion. 

• 2009-2017, states and localities built enough new roads to crisscross the United States 83 times.

In May 2019 The American Society of Civil Engineers rated California roads at a “D.”

In summary, California will get even more money from the feds and will have no requirement to fix neither roads nor infrastructure.

A new “congestion tax” looms in addition to our eternally increasing gas taxes. Drivers will be charged a fee for every mile they drive — the “privilege” of driving. While it’s set to start in San Diego, Los Angeles and the Bay Area, you can bet it will mushroom statewide quickly. It’s Sacramento’s revenue coupled with forcing us into public transportation. 

SB1 (taxes) survived the “Yes on 6” proposition that would have repealed it, largely because lead Democrats obfuscated the language. Keeping in step with their purposeful lack of transparency on bills is SB268. It alters AB195 (2017), which requires clear, detailed disclosure to voters like the purpose and end costs of bonds to taxpayers. SB268 will exempt local jurisdictions from the details and obscurely place those details in “less accessible,” lengthy voter guides — depending on people not reading the protracted pages.

Assemblyman Jay Obernolte is correct: “Voters ought to be told that if they vote on a bond, it will increase their property taxes… Apparently transparency doesn’t rule the day but instead it’s smoke and mirrors when it comes to ballot measures that increase taxes.”

Taxpayers need to wake up and see clearly that there could never and will never be enough for feeding the insatiable addiction of the supermajority. 

Betty Arenson is a Santa Clarita resident. “Right Here, Right Now” appears Saturdays and rotates among several local Republicans.

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