Tuesday, May 3, 2016
IN MY OPINION (Column)
How the Legislature Can Help the Middle Class
By JON COUPAL
So much of what comes out of the Capitol hurts average Californians. Efforts to impose new taxes, onerous regulations or laws that dictate lifestyle choices like how much soda one drinks, have citizens ducking for cover. But every now and then, bills are introduced that cut against the stereotype by providing genuine benefit to average folks who don’t have the “juice” in Sacramento as do powerful, well-funded special interests.
Assemblyman Mike Gatto has introduced Assembly Bill 2586, legislation that would make parking, which has become a nightmare in many communities, a bit easier. Titled the “Parking Bill of Rights,” the common sense measure features a package of reforms that include requiring cities to promptly make spaces available to motorists after street-sweeping activities have concluded, prohibiting cities from ticketing motorists who park at broken meters, preventing valet-parking operators from excluding motorists from metered spots, and prohibiting cities from hiring private companies to act as parking “bounty hunters.”
“Occasionally the state needs to step in and remind our local governments that parking a vehicle should be an efficient practice, and not another big hassle designed to separate motorists from their money,” said Gatto. “These simple and practical policy changes will make life easier for Californians who just want to park their cars and go about their business.”
Another bill that will assist middle class families is Senate Bill 874. Authored by Senator Ted Gaines, it would simply increase the dependent child tax credit by 25 percent to $422. That might not seem like a lot of money to big union interests or corporations, but California has one of the highest costs of living in America. For a struggling family, a few hundred bucks buys groceries and shoes for the kids.
Two more bills are sure to be warmly received by older homeowners, a major constituency of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Senate bill 1126 by Senator Jeff Stone would eliminate the two percent inflation allowance for seniors of modest incomes. While the two percent rate cap provides great tax relief for most homeowners, even that modest amount is too high for some seniors who are barely able to hold on to their homes.
The other “senior friendly” bill is Assembly Bill 2691, the Monthly Property Tax Payment Program, by Assemblyman Chris Holden. This measure would permit a County Board of Supervisors to approve an ordinance allowing taxpayers over the age of 62 or a person receiving SSI income for a disability, regardless of age, to pay their property taxes monthly instead of twice a year. While not cutting their tax liability, this would help older folks and the disabled to budget for their property taxes.
We won’t know the ultimate fate of these four legislative proposals for a few months. But the mere fact that they are introduced at least allows a discussion to start about how the California Legislature can help the middle class and retired homeowners instead of looking out for powerful special interests who are the reliable sources of campaign contributions.
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