Choosing the best candidates for taxpayers

It’s no secret that most Californians think that taxes are too high.

A PPIC poll released on April 15 of this year found that “record-high shares of Californians think that they pay more in taxes than they should and that the state and local tax system is not fair.” That feeling, according to PPIC, “. . . is in line with fiscal facts.” Our taxes are among the highest in every category except for property taxes, and even then, we are in the upper middle among states on per capita property tax collection. Only one thing keeps us from the misery of being at the top of that list: Proposition 13.

The assaults on taxpayers come from many quarters. Some of these attacks are high-profile ballot measures, some are trojan horse sneak attacks buried inside other ballot measures, some are cryptic attacks between the lines of court decisions, and some come from the lawmakers voters elect to represent them.

For this last category, voters can rarely rely on what a candidate says about protecting taxpayers. Very few politicians run on a platform of raising taxes unless it is about raising taxes on other people. (“The rich aren’t paying their fair share; oil companies need to pay more; no one who makes under $400,000 will pay more.” If lies were nickels, we could pay off the national debt.)

More likely, candidates will either obfuscate or outright lie about their tax increase intentions. Progressives particularly will claim to be defenders of the working class only to vote for sales taxes or parcel taxes, both of which are highly regressive. But lefties are not alone in their inability to keep promises about tax hikes. Who can forget the famous “read my lips” pledge from a Republican president?

Voters tend to turn to people and organizations they trust when deciding which candidates deserve their votes. It might be Uncle Harry or a local bartender but usually there are more reliable sources. For suffering taxpayers in California, there is no more reliable source than the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association political action committee. The HJTA PAC considers requests for endorsements of candidates for the state Assembly and Senate, statewide offices, U.S. Congress, and U.S. Senate. The PAC will also endorse in county assessor races given the importance of that office in fairly applying most laws related to property taxes, including Proposition 13.

The HJTA PAC is non-partisan. After all, a third of HJTA members are Democrats. We press candidates, not based on party affiliation, but rather for their views on the importance of Proposition 13, including both the tax rate cap and the limitation on annual increases in taxable value. We also inquire about their beliefs on the tools of direct democracy: initiative, recall and referendum, all of which are under constant attack by progressives who see these constitutional rights as an impediment to unlimited taxation.

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Additional areas of concern to the PAC include making sure that those elected to public office will also defend other taxpayer protections sponsored by HJTA, including the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, approved by voters in 1996 as Proposition 218. Another is whether the candidate will be a good steward of taxpayer resources by opposing the massive waste, fraud and abuse which is endemic in California.

High taxes, heavy regulations, and a poor return on the tax dollars we already pay are driving citizens out of the once-Golden state. So, when it comes to choosing their next representatives, taxpayers should visit for the analysis and recommendations of California’s largest and most trusted taxpayer advocacy organization.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

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