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Jon Coupal

Legislators Tell Tales, but Grades Don’t Lie

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an intellectual leader of the United States Senate for 24 years, often chided adversaries declaring “you are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” Nowhere is the effort to obscure facts more pronounced than in the California Capitol.

It is one thing for a legislator to say he or she likes Proposition 13 and has the best of intentions for its preservation, but it is quite another when they actually vote on various Proposition 13 related bills. For it is the actual votes cast that determine what the “facts” are – not intentions or platitudinous opinions.

As we get closer to the November election, politicians on the left side of the political spectrum are squeezed. On the one hand, they’ve promised their political funders – mostly public sector labor bosses – that they will try to dismantle Proposition 13 and other taxpayer protections. On the other hand, they tell their voters just the opposite. You see, public expressions to repeal or weaken Proposition 13 don’t sell too well back home. There is a reason that Proposition 13 is called the “third rail” of California politics.

That’s what makes the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association Legislative Report Card so important.

As a tool for holding legislators accountable, there is nothing better than HJTA’s legislative scorecard for all California voters who care about Proposition 13, taxpayer rights and efficient use of taxpayer dollars. The 2014 edition includes 15 bills ranging from positive measures like increasing transparency for local property parcel taxes to more negative proposals like a paper bag tax and a new local car tax that is masquerading as a hidden fee. Because HJTA is a non-partisan organization – over 30 percent of members are registered Democrats – we ignore party affiliation entirely when handing out grades. Only the politicians’ votes matter, not their campaign promises.

The HJTA Report Card provides valuable information to voters every year, but the stakes are even higher in 2014. Tax-happy legislative leaders desiring to weaken Proposition 13 were only two FBI investigations and criminal indictments away from succeeding.
And next year taxpayers are unlikely to receive such a reprieve. That makes the November 2014 election, and these Report Card grades, critically important. If tax-and-spend legislators secure a two-thirds supermajority – and avoid FBI entanglement – property taxes could be increased by billions of dollars. We know this to be true because Assembly Constitutional Amendment 8, a bill introduced in 2013 to lower the two-thirds vote to 55% for a litany of expensive infrastructure projects including streets, highways, water projects and public safety buildings, actually cleared the Assembly last year.

Unless voters possess the knowledge of how their legislators actually voted, we could very well see a horde of anti-Proposition 13 proposals pass.

And, as usual, most legislators did very poorly on their grades this year. While scores overall were slightly higher than a year ago, 75 legislators still received a failing grade, meaning they agreed with our position less than 50% of the time. Five legislators received a perfect 100% average over the last two years. These were State Assemblymembers Brian Dahle, Tim Donnelly, Beth Gaines and State Senators Joel Anderson and Mark Wyland.

Taxpayers know the stakes. Now they need to know the truth. This report card clears the fog and obfuscation to reveal the truth about California legislators.

To review the HJTA Legislative Report Card please go to where it can be found under Legislation in the menu at the top of the homepage.