How many ways can voters say ‘no’ to tax hikes?

May 23, 2012

By Katy Grimes

The California city which has been trying to force a new professional sports arena on its tapped-out taxpayers is now asking for a sales-tax increase.

But even more egregious than the tax increase push is the poll commissioned by Sacramento’s City Manager John Shirey, the former leader of the now-defunct California Redevelopment Agency.

Proving just how easy it is to manipulate numbers and outcome, the poll found “roughly 70 percent of city voters would support a general purpose sales tax increase.”


With a title full of bovine-stool, “The City of Sacramento Essential City Services Protection Measure,” the Democratic poll company FM3, phoned 800 city residents and asked,  “To restore eliminated police and unfilled firefighter positions and maintain essential City services, including 9-1-1 emergency response; gang and youth violence prevention, investigation of robberies and burglaries; park maintenance and safety; youth and senior services; and other city services, shall the City of Sacramento enact a one-half cent sales tax with all revenue for the City and none for the State, subject to public, annual, independent audits?

I want to know how the pollsters got 800 people to respond to such a stupid question. This does not speak well for Sacramento residents. They should have asked college students, “In order to receive all of the booze and weed for your four years of college, should the city enact a tax to pay for it?”

Notice that the poll company FM3 didn’t ask “would you be willing to pay additional taxes?,” and instead made it sound as if other city residents will be paying the taxes.

A more accurate poll?

An informal poll was recently taken by Sacramento Bee writer Ryan Lillis, who asked readers for their thoughts on a city tax hike proposal.  Of the 161 responses, more than 95 percent of them vehemently opposed any city tax hike.

The actual poll question was, “If pension concessions are reached, would you consider a sales tax increase or a new parcel tax to fund police officers, firefighters and parks?

My favorite answer was, “I am all for tax hikes if the Fireman are MD’s and can also perform surgery and prescribe medication.  They are beginning to make those salaries.  Police too if they are the equivelent of Navy Seals.  Sure, I would pay for those skills.”

The polling company

To give you a little insight into the polling company Shirey hired, FM3 has a headline story on it’s website about partner Paul Maslin, a Democratic pollster who is running the recall effort against Wiscon Governor Scott Walker, as well as working for Kathleen Falk, who is challenging Walker. Maslin ought to know about recalls since he also worked for California’s recalled Governor Gray Davis.

Take a look at all of the questions, clearly designed to elicit “yes” answers.

The pollers also asked the 800 likely voters if they would support a gang tax. “To provide at-risk school-aged youth with job skills, training, and work experience, by restoring eliminated gang and drug prevention programs, after-school and weekend programs, and youth sports and recreation programs, andrestoring local recreation center hours in high-risk areas, shall the City of Sacramento enact a one-quarter cent sales tax with all revenue for the City and none for the State, subject to public, annual, independent audits?

72 percent answered “yes,” or “probably yes.”

Sacramento politicians tried to pass a gang tax in 2008, but couldn’t even get support from other local politicians. Former Sacramento County Supervisor Roger Dickinson, now an Assemblyman representing Sacramento, and former Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo, pushed for a quarter-cent sales tax increase, and claimed it would have generated $16 million per year. They also claimed the $16 million would have gone to “gang prevention,” but not many in the city believed them.

This poll is hardly news and should not be reported as such.

Shirey can play all the disingenuous numbers games he wants, and get local news media to reprint his press releases, but voters aren’t buying the horse poop flowing from City Hall.

Someone should ask Shirey where all of the the money is going? Sacramento voters are already paying a premium for fire, police and parks, but the services keep getting cut… it’s the city which hasn’t kept up its end of the bargain, and taxpayers know it.

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