Can California’s Taxpayers Be Thankful for 2016?

November 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

If taxpayers focus on the results of the recent election, there may not seem to be much to celebrate. While the rest of America took a big step toward fiscal sanity, the same cannot be said of California. At the state level, all 3 taxes, one on marijuana users, one on smokers and another on higher income taxpayers, passed. Fueled by massive special interest campaign spending, tax hike proponents convinced voters that they were simply raising taxes on “other people” which made them more palatable.

The bright spot among the 17 statewide measures was the approval of Proposition 54, which will provide much needed transparency over the California Legislature. For years taxpayers have wanted legislative bills to be available for public review prior to being voted on. Prop 54 makes that happen.

At the local level, it looks like 80 percent of the local taxes and bonds were approved. The good news is that, largely due to the requirements of Jarvis initiatives Proposition 13 and Proposition 218, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, these measures were decided by voters rather than being imposed by out of touch public officials.

However, what encourages and inspires taxpayers greatly, is the ongoing efforts of tenacious individuals around the state who continue, against long odds, to challenge the powerful political class to advance the cause of average citizens.

Howard Jarvis used to say the reason for the success of the campaign to pass Proposition 13 could be encapsulated in three words, “and then some.” Those working to pass tax reform did what was required, “and then some.”

Here are just three examples of those who personify the Jarvis ideal.

Dino Cortopassi is a successful farmer and businessman. He and his wife Joan now focus on responsible philanthropy, using the family foundation to fund a wide array of programs for the benefit of the disadvantaged and the environment. Dino is also deeply concerned about California’s runaway debt that is placing an ever-growing burden on our children and grandchildren.

This is why they funded the qualification of Proposition 53, the Stop Blank Checks initiative, that would have required voter approval of state construction bonds of $2 billion or more.

Of course, those who benefit from unrestricted debt, the deep pocketed “Sacramento gang,” outspent the Yes campaign by 20 to one, focusing their money on a dishonest television campaign. Although Proposition 53 fell just short, Dino and Joan provided a major public service by exposing how government funds its programs, often out of sight and without the approval of the taxpayers.

Knowing this effort fell just short, Howard Jarvis would likely have smiled and offered encouragement. He would point out that before the success of Proposition 13, he had mounted 3 failed ballot campaigns over a period of 15 years.

Another bright light for taxpayers is Andrea Seastrand, who serves as President of the Central Coast Taxpayers Association (CCTA). The organization works to inform and educate voters on important tax issues at all levels of government. Andrea is constantly advocating for the protection of Proposition 13 and fighting for the forgotten taxpayer. Although Andrea is a former member of the Assembly and House of Representatives, she never voted for a tax increase and always focused on the interests of those who are compelled to pay government’s bills. In the 20 years since leaving office, Andrea has been a tireless taxpayer advocate.

A third example is Richard Rider, Chairman of the San Diego Tax Fighters. With a sharp wit and willingness to do his homework, he has been the outspoken bane of San Diego area politicians who attempt to misuse taxpayer dollars or impose unnecessary taxes. Rider is a former client of HJTA’s legal team who has been unrelenting in his efforts to protect Propositions 13 and 218, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act. Rider, like Andrea Seastrand, is a former recipient of HJTA’s Taxfighter of the Year Award.

There are so many more that deserve mention, and we are grateful for each. With thousands of folks willing to make sacrifices to defend the interests of average taxpayers, if we work together, there is still hope for a brighter future for California.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization, dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Tenacity is the Secret to Taxpayer Success

December 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

After the passage of Proposition 13, Howard Jarvis became even more popular with average citizens. He would joke that overnight he went from being regarded as a “nut” by the political elites to being seen as a “savior” for millions of California homeowners.

Visitors to Howard’s office would praise him for coming up with Proposition 13 just when it was so desperately needed. But Howard would just smile and point out that he had been working on property tax reform for 16 years.

Howard was tenacious and a big believer in the power of people when they combined together to make change. When speaking to groups he would hold up his hand with his fingers extended and say that while separately they were weak, united they were strong and he would form his hand into a fist. Some will remember seeing the photo of Howard holding up his fist on the cover of Time Magazine.

However, Howard understood that it was necessary to start small. His first taxpayer group meeting was attended by only twenty ordinary citizens — no celebrities, no politicians — just regular folks concerned that if the trend of ever escalating property taxes continued, they would lose their homes.

Howard would say that people who want to reform government don’t have to wait for somebody else to lead them. “You don’t need a campaign manager to lead you; you can be your own campaign manager and lead yourself,” he wrote. “The brains and capacities of the citizens of the United States are invariably greater than the brains and the capacities of bureaucracy – now misnamed government.”

For taxpayers, the key to success, Howard believed, could be summed up in the words of James E. Byrnes, Secretary of State in the Truman Administration, who said, “I discovered at an early age that most of the difference between average people and great people can be explained in three words: ‘And then some.’” Howard attributed the eventual success of the Tax Revolt to the fact that his fellow taxpayer activists did what was expected, “And then some.”

Although Howard passed in 1986, his spirit lives on in thousands of Californians who give of their time and energy to push for more economical and efficient government. To remind the public of these unsung heroes, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association annually presents the Taxfighter of the Year Award.

This year’s recipient is Ourania Riddle, a 30 year member of the Solano County Taxpayers Association, who witnessed the unelected State Water Resources Control Board running roughshod over the rights of taxpayers in her hometown of Dixon, and decided to take action. Her lobbying helped to assure passage of a state law that would allow Dixon to comply with water regulations and avoid penalties of $10,000 a day.

When the city determined a major water rate increase was in order, Ourania and her friends succeeded in gathering enough signatures to place a measure on the ballot to rescind the increase. Although a Court subsequently ruled that the taxpayers’ effort to use the power of initiative was invalid, Ourania and her cohorts succeeded in changing state law and putting Dixon officials on notice that its taxpayers are organized and are carefully watching costs.

We at HJTA thank Ourania and all those unsung taxpayer heroes throughout the state who improve our lives by volunteering to act as watchdogs over government spending and who prod government to make more efficient use of taxpayers’ dollars. The spirit of Howard Jarvis lives on in the actions of these outstanding California taxpayers who are willing to do what is expected, “and then some.”

 

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

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