Ragged Clown

It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing…


Reset California

In 2002, Santa Clara passed an initiative that raised a fee $20 per year per household for open spaces and recreation. It passed by a clear majority.

Fast forward and a group (I think their official name is Mr and Ms Average Tax-Hating Californians – MaMATHC) sued claiming that it was a tax, not a fee and therefore required 2/3 rather than a simple majority. The California Supreme Court agreed.

Fast forward a bit more and MaMATHC won a class action lawsuit to get that money (7 years of it) refunded (with $7m going to Grabbit and Run LLC in lawyers fees, not to mention the costs of administering the refund).

I just got my claim form in the mail yesterday. I can join the class action and claim back 7yrs x $20. In a reversal of the usual taxpayer revolt, I tore mine up. I’d rather my tax money go to open spaces.

I think this little affair is a neat microcosm of the state problems as a whole.

To recap:

  1. Legislature is powerless because of term limits so …
  2. All the important stuff happens by the initative process but…
  3. The initiative process is a blunt instrument and hard to wield effectively so…
  4. It results in wacky ideas like long term commitments to spending, impossible to increase taxes, and…
  5. Term limits

..and so the cycle repeats.

Because we don’t expect the legislature to actually do anything (that’s what the initiative process is for) they don’t. Instead they cluster around the wingnut/moonbat extremities and obstruct obstruct obstruct.

We are prisoners to the extremists at either end of the political spectrum.

I wish we had a do-over on the California Consitution and started by getting rid of the initiative process.

You don’t get a dog and then bark yourself.


4 responses to Reset California

Bruce Oksol July 3, 2009

Had it not been for the initiative process, I can only imagine how high property taxes would be on homes by this time. Retirees would have been forced out of their homes long ago. Proposition 13 and subsequent supporting initiatives have been lifesavers for families.

I do agree about term limits: sets up a perfect opportunity to not do anything constructive. Why do folks even run for elective office if there’s no long-term gain, only short-term payoffs? It sounds like we might as well cut the Assembly in half, meet half the time they now meet, call it a day, and enjoy the beach.

$20 per household is very regressive. There are some very poor folks who cannot afford another $20 on top of everything else and yet the folks in Santa Monica don’t even notice the $20, and they are the ones benefiting from the wide open spaces right out their front door. The poor folks in east Los Angeles won’t see much for their $20. I’ve never felt comfortable with regressive taxes.

Jeffrey Fredrick July 3, 2009

Putting aside the property tax issue, the real problem with Prop 13 is the 2/3 requirements for all tax increases means that a small minority can hold the state government hostage.

And your concern about regressive fees might make more sense except the $20 fee was for Santa Clara County which encompasses neither Santa Monica nor East LA.

Kevin July 3, 2009

The initiative process gave us Prop 13 AND the 2/3 requirement AND spending commitments.

If it weren’t for the initiative process stealing their attention, people would pay more attention to the election of local officials and we’d expect more of them and they wouldn’t get away with raising property taxes sky high.

What Jeff said on the $20.

Matt July 5, 2009

>If it weren’t for the initiative process stealing their attention, people would pay more attention

Seems optimistic.

I’m glad that everyone in Santa Clara County is uniformly wealthy enough to not miss $20 for open spaces. I didn’t know that, I had thought it was regressive even there.

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