Tuesday, October 31, 2017
IN MY OPINION (Column)
Legislative Report Card Ignores the Spin, Exposes the Truth
By JON COUPAL
In 2017, the California Legislature launched a sustained and withering assault on middle-class taxpayers. Its victories were numerous and significant: A $75 per document recording tax was approved, affecting up to 400 different transactions; a gas and car tax, which takes effect November 1, will cost California households another $600 a year; and an increase in environmental regulations, known as cap-and-trade, could increase the cost of fuel by an additional 70 cents/gallon by 2030.
In the face of such devastating policies, it is easy for taxpayers to question whether legislators will ever be held accountable. However, a useful tool to assist taxpayers is the annual legislative Report Card published by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Introduced back in 2007, the point of the report card is to document how lawmakers have voted on issues important to taxpayers.
Lawmakers tend to hide behind statements, often of dubious veracity, to justify their votes. The report card sets aside motives, politics and party affiliations and simply asks one question: did legislators stand up for the interests of taxpayers? While politicians may obfuscate, the numbers don’t lie.
HJTA’s 2017 scorecard featured a list of 22 bills which, represents a broad sample size, making it easy to see who is either a friend to taxpayers or beholden to the special interests that pervade the state Capitol. Beyond the obvious tax increases listed above, other bills include those that make it easier for local governments to increase sales taxes, and allow for San Francisco Bay Area residents to increase bridge tolls. Attacks on the initiative process are another common theme highlighted in the scorecard.
Given the policy breadth of the bills listed above, it should come as no surprise that the 2017 scorecard was nothing short of abysmal. A record 79 legislators failed the scorecard while only 24 got a grade of “A.” Ten legislators received the coveted and difficult to get perfect score in 2017: Assembly Members Travis Allen, Brian Dahle, Vince Fong, Jay Obernolte and Jim Patterson. They were joined by State Sens. Joel Anderson, Patricia Bates, Jean Fuller, Mike Morrell and Jeff Stone. These legislators should be commended for their diligence on behalf of taxpayers.
Increasingly, party affiliation is not always an indicator of sympathy toward taxpayer issues. Los Angeles Democrats Matt Dababneh and Blanca Rubio received a grade of “C” for carrying important HJTA legislation signed by Gov. Brown. For years, HJTA has rightly rewarded legislators who assist us in crafting policy that aids taxpayers. Dababneh’s Assembly Bill 1194 increases transparency for local bond measures by showing voters how much more in property taxes they will pay if a bond is approved. Rubio’s AB1625 allows individuals to be able to park at broken parking meters for up to four hours, unless otherwise indicated. This common-sense solution will allow people to more easily park in big cities, while also incentivizing local municipalities to quickly fix broken meters.
Conversely, Republican State Sen. Anthony Cannella received a failing grade of “F” for casting pro-taxpayer positions less than half the time.
To view the 2017 Legislative Report Card, and find which representatives are proud of their grades and which would rather they not be posted on a refrigerator, please go to www.hjta.org where the scores can be found under “Hot Topics.”
Copyright 2017, Metropolitan News Company