Unions or cities pushing more tax increases?

July 19, 2012

Katy Grimes: Not wanting to be left out of the latest trend, it appears that Sacramento’s City Council wants to file for bankruptcy as well.

“An overwhelming majority of the council has expressed support for raising the sales tax as a way to produce revenue for core city services,” the Sacramento Bee reported today. And because most city council members support raising taxes, “the Sacramento City Council is expected to move forward tonight with placing a measure on the November ballot seeking to raise the sales tax rate in the city.”

Another great idea from the elected brain trust in Sacramento.

Garbage begets garbage

Like an episode out of Goodfellas, this same city council approved a really stinky, smelly multimillion dollar solid waste contract last year. Despite dire warnings, the city council approved the no-bid contract awarded to BLT Enterprises, later swallowed up by garbage giant, Waste Management Inc. Sacramento city rate payers will have to live with the contract for decades, according to the Sacramento County Grand Jury.

The stinky contract forces city residents to pay 25 percent higher garbage pickup rates than any other city in Sacramento County. It makes one wonder which city official has an uncle who owns the garbage company.

The City Council did this without a competitive bid process, despite the contract being worth more than $22 million.

These same officials now want to raise taxes.

It’s going to get really ugly in Sacramento.

“Councilman Kevin McCarty told The Bee’s editorial board this week that he will propose adding a six-year ‘sunset’ term on the tax hike, as well as annual audits of how the new revenue is being spent and the creation of a citizens’ oversight commission to track the spending,” the Bee reported.

Somehow McCarty thinks a phony sunset date on the tax and phonier annual audits will make the new tax increase more palatable to voters.

He could not be more wrong.

For the last three years, the city of  Sacramento has been cutting the services it is required to provide to city residents, and for which we pay a great deal of money. Garbage and recycle waste pickups have been decreased, and the yard waste piles are no longer picked up at all. This may not be a problem for newer Sacramento neighborhoods, but in my old neighborhood in the City of Trees, one yard waste can doesn’t come close to dealing with the reality of yard clippings, leaves, grass piles, leaves, needles, and more leaves.

Misplaced priorities

Under Mayor Kevin Johnson’s reign, the past three years the city has focused the majority of its capital trying to get a new sports arena approved for the Sacramento Kings, despite overwhelming opposition from city voters.

Sacramento has increased city utility rates and utility taxes, and has demonstrated that officials and elected politicians lack the fiscal restraint or discipline needed to resolve the historical budget deficit, or deal with astronomical pension debt, which is the elephant in the city park.

The Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency continues to operate as if nothing has changed.

Instead of working diligently to keep rates low, local utilities are participating in low-income housing remodelings – a brilliant priority in a city with a massive deficit.

Mystery poll

The Bee claims that a poll conducted in April found that 68 percent of voters would support a half-percentage-point increase in the city sales tax. “That boost would generate an estimated $31.4 million for the city each year, according to a city staff report,” the Bee reported. “Support was even stronger for a quarter-percentage-point addition to the sales tax, an increase that would bring in $15.7 million each year for the city.”

The Bee editors used the same poll information in an editorial yesterday, but neither story linked to the poll, nor could I find this mystery poll anywhere.

Interestingly, these same poll results appear to have been used in many cities throughout California.

* “Based on a survey of several hundred county residents, there appears to be strong support for a sales tax measure for roads,” the Lake County News reported today. “Approximately 68 percent of those polled said they would support such a measure. Responses from within the city of Clearlake polled even stronger for the tax,” the LC News amazingly found.

* The San Francisco Chronicle reported on July 8, “Many politicians and community leaders felt a half-cent sales tax, mirroring what voters in Santa Clara County recently approved, was the most they could hope for. The poll showed, however, that slightly fewer people, 68 percent, supported the half-cent tax.”

* The Press Democrat found that in Petaluma, Vice Mayor Mike Healy, “who commissioned a poll that he said showed 68 percent of the community supported a half-percentage-point, eight-year, general-purpose tax.”

* The Albany, CA Patch reported nearly the same discussion of tax proposals. “The proposed sales tax, which would last eight years and is estimated to generate about $600,000 each year, comes in response to declining revenues, which have forced city leaders to consider cutting certain city services.”

Each of the cities states that because the sales tax will not be earmarked for specific purposes, it will take only a simple majority to approve the tax. If the taxes were earmarked, the tax measures would need two-thirds majority vote for passage, lessening the chances of any of the tax proposals from passing.

And each of the cities’ tax proposals have language similar to Albany’s as justification of the tax increases: “to preserve the quality of life and maintain critical city services and facilities, including maintaining police and fire services, along with recreational, senior and youth programs.”

In fact, if you google the phrase “68 percent of voters would support a half-percentage-point increase in the city sales tax,” news stories from cities all over the country report very similar polling and outcomes.

Tax increases or loss of city services

The Bee reports “basic city services have been gutted by deep budget cuts. There are fewer police officers on patrol, fire companies are routinely ‘browned out’ and many parks are a mess. If not for volunteers, nonprofits and businesses raising money and pitching in, it would be even worse.”

And city taxes and fees have never been higher. Could the money be going to pay pension debt instead of paying city employees to provide the services we are taxed for?

Sacramento heading for a meltdown

Sacramento has seen a very deliberate loss of police protection, the parks have been allowed to decay in the most public and visible areas, yard waste is left on streets to rot, 9-1-1 puts callers on hold, fire departments are have announced brown-outs, and police no longer respond to property crimes or burglaries.

Could the taxing plan be any more transparent? Unfortunately, there are far too many two-Prius families living in Sacramento city proper who buy into this liberal drivel.

While Sacramento’s Mayor and a couple of council members claim  they are “trying to restore faith and confidence,” the city council members know they have the support of the city’s labor unions if they vote to push another new tax on city residents.

Unions pushing tax increases

It’s unions driving this bus, and it’s probably unions which provided the polls for the various cities. Big labor unions own politicians, and it’s never been as evident as it is right now.

It even appears that unions are writing the scripts for news stories, and for the politicians.

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