This article was originally published in the East County Gazette on November 1, and you can find it here (page 2):
By Joel Anderson
Recently I was speaking with constituents at a community meeting, and a group of seniors asked me why it feels as though they’re not welcome in California anymore.
They shared with me that there seems to be no other way to interpret the laws and policies coming out of Sacramento these days. The new laws that put expensive mandates on state energy and land use have made housing and utilities unaffordable, especially for folks like them on fixed incomes. And their biggest concern is they see Sacramento politicians licking their chops to undo Proposition 13, the last line of defense for those folks that do own their homes to be able to afford to keep them.
I’m here to tell you that there is a better path. But we must first acknowledge reality.
The cost of housing is the number one reason lower and middle-income families are moving out of California, but that’s only part of the problem. Hundreds of local government parcel taxes and bond measures have put the squeeze on household budgets, even as government employee salaries go up and government services fail to deliver on their promises. Last year’s gas tax increase kicked up California gas taxes to the highest in the country. And the majority party’s tunnel vision energy policies are driving up utility payments. That’s an effective tax on our basic power needs.
Raising taxes has become the reflex response by California’s ruling party to every issue in the state. For example, our 9-1-1 emergency call system is 50 years old and needs to be modernized. But even with a $9 billion state budget surplus, the governor and majority party tried to push through a new open-ended phone line tax to pay for the upgrade, without even bothering to come up with a solid plan on what would get modernized. What’s rarely questioned is how wisely government spends all those taxes it collects. Californians deserve accountability for their hard earned tax dollars that are entrusted to the state in return for what they would hope are effective government services.
This path is not sustainable, because people can’t make enough to afford California. As a result, people are voting with their feet. After 150 years of California gaining population, our state is now losing people. And the people leaving aren’t wealthy Hollywood and Silicon Valley moguls, but the hard working lower and middle-income families.
For the last 40 years the fundamental tax reform of Proposition 13 has partially restrained the legislature by putting a lid on property tax rates. Prop 13 passed because just like now, lower and middle income people, especially older Californians on fixed incomes, were being pushed out of their homes by rising property taxes. In the years since it passed, overall property tax revenues have continued to increase, since property tax revenues go up as property values increase and properties change hands. But for California government, no matter how much tax revenue they collect, it’s never enough.
The first step to stemming the tide, protecting our seniors, and ensuring that this state is affordable for future generations of Californians, is we must stop the effort to repeal Prop 13 protections on commercial property. Businesses that get stuck paying higher property taxes will either pass those costs on to consumers or companies based in California, and the jobs they provide, will move out of state. Further, I agree with seniors in my community who believe the undoing of Prop 13 will not stop with commercial property and fear that soon even ordinary folks like them will lose the protections that allow them to stay in their homes.
Our seniors have spent their entire working lives in this state, paying taxes and contributing to our economy, while doing their best to set aside for their own retirements. Their plan was to spend their golden years enjoying the natural wonders our golden state has to offer. Together, we must fight for them and future generations so that grandparents and their grandchildren alike still have the opportunity to achieve the California dream.