THE REACTION OF SACRAMENTO'S POLITICAL CLASS TO LAST WEEK'S SPECIAL ELECTION VOTE
Jon Coupal, President, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
May 26, 2009
[Publisher's Note: As part of an ongoing effort to bring original, thoughtful commentary to you here at the FlashReport, I am pleased to present this column from Jon Coupal. Coupal is the President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association - Flash]
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Last week, this column set forth the various messages that were sent to our political leaders via the stunning defeat of the budget “reform” package of Propositions 1A-1E. Despite stacking the deck and outspending opponents by at least 10 to 1, nearly two-thirds of voters rejected the proposals and the $16 billion in tax increases they would bring.
Among the messages sent by the voters is that the status quo is over. 'No' is going to be a new word in the lexicon of many of our elected leaders. They are going to have to shut off the spigot of taxpayer revenue for their powerful political constituencies that have controlled Sacramento for so long.
Also, voters were crystal clear in statement about their tax burden. Voters are not happy about carrying the highest tax burden in the nation so our public employees can continue to be the highest paid in all 50 states and so that special interest contributors get tax breaks. The post hoc
rationalizations by various left of center pundits about how this was not a vote about taxes range from weak to silly.
Another message – one that has been sent by voters before – is that deception in politics can be fatal, as well as immoral. The worst thing our elected officials can do is try to fool the voters. Here, the notion that Prop 1A had nothing to do with tax increases (the Governor’s early position) didn’t even pass the laugh test. The effort by the legislature to present a deceptive ballot title, ballot label, ballot summary – as well as cherry-picking the arguments “against” – was despicable. And it backfired.
Knowing that the voters sent these messages with a high degree of clarity, the next question is to discern whether they were received by their intended audience – California’s existing political leadership and, if so, what will be the response? Some of the Governor’s early reactions were quite positive. Indeed, at least for now, he is sounding like the man we elected to replace Gray Davis and who triumphantly rode into Sacramento to blow up the boxes. After Tuesday’s rejection, he has stated in fairly clear terms that further tax increases are off the table.
Even the Democrat leadership is being very reticent about saying the “T” word too loud. Seems as though that last Tuesday was an epiphany.
But then the next question – and one that responsible taxpayers have been asking for years – is whether in their drive to cut government spending, will our elected leaders exact revenge on voters by cutting programs most working and productive citizens want and need, or will they reduce spending by targeting our most wasteful and corrupt programs first?
Will the Integrated Waste Management Board be eliminated before the California Department of Forestry eliminates positions? Will the legislature hold hearings on the labor abuses rampant throughout California government at all levels? (For example, LAUSD pays 160 teachers not to teach – they just show up to work and do nothing except collect their paychecks). Or will California’s best and brightest teachers be fired before the lazy and incompetent ones are laid off?
Will our elected leaders dust off the California Performance Review and begin to implement its recommendations for streamlining government enthusiastically, or will they just go through the motions, implement a few minor provisions and claim that there is no more fat in state government? Will our legislative leaders breath new life into JLAC (Joint Legislative Audit Committee) and aggressively review long existing state programs to see, first, if the program is still as high a priority as it was when the authorizing legislation was enacted and, second, assuming that the answer to the first question is yes, is the program being administered in a cost effective manner?
Will dangerous inmates be released early, or will the Department of Corrections reduce the costs of incarcerating prisoners? California is perhaps the least efficient in corrections costs, nearly double the per-inmate costs of the national average. Taxpayers would be well-served if political leaders ignored the political influence of the prison guards and seriously considered contracting out prison services.
These are legitimate questions and voters will be watching to see if the reductions in state spending are imposed in a rational manner preserving our most needed programs – especially public safety – or whether our political leadership will exact some sort of revenge against voters for turning down the proposals on May 19th. Regrettably, we have already heard some legislators adopt a “we’ll show them” mentality as they review spending priorities.
But that would be a mistake. Our elected leaders have already made one huge political miscalculation this year. Cutting needed programs and services while leaving vast amounts of waste, fraud and abuse will not be tolerated by the voters. If that occurs and Californians perceive that our elected leaders are reacting to the May 19th election like a petulant child, the stern message of the May 19th vote will pale in comparison to the reaction of voters during the next election cycle when most of these leaders have to face reelection.
The mission statement of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assocation reads:
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers' rights including the right to limited taxation, the right to vote on tax increases and the right of economical, equitable and efficient use of taxpayer dollars.
Accomplished taxpayer advocate and prominent attorney Jon Coupal, as President of the HJTA, heads up an organization that plays a critical role here in the
. Beginning with the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, the HJTA has consistently been the lead organization looking out for the rights of
taxpayers. In literally EVERY major battle that occurs in Sacramento, where the forces of irresponsible government growth are trying to figure out another scheme to raise taxes or fees to redistribute taxpayer funds to the latest 'must fund' program, Jon and the HJTA are there to ask the tough questions, and to wave a big stick. You see, the HJTA doesn't just talk the talk. Whether leading efforts to get their many, many grassroots members to lobby their elected officials, going to court to fight illegal tax increases, or marshalling resources to take tax-protection measures to the electorate, HJTA has been there. But not just on a statewide level, but also at the local level -- fighting against local bond measures and fee-increase schemes that seek to unduly and unfairly burden taxpayers.
You can write to Jon Coupal (via the FR) here.