Election 2020: Death and Taxes


By Sheryl Hamlin
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Ventura County Tax Association (VCTA) 2020 Board Chair Ron Golden introduced Dan Walters, famed journalist of many years in California, and Jon Coupal, President of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA), speakers for the Zoom event of September 24, 2020. The event was co-hosted by ColabVC.


California in Crisis?

Six to seven months ago, said Walters, California was awash in cash, the unemployment was less than 4% and tech was golden. Governor Newsom even spoke of the country of California.

Overnight with the Covid-19, the lightning fires, blackouts, homelessness (150,000 in California), double digit unemployment and record heat waves, the state’s fortunes turned with California asking the federal government for $14 billion in aid on top of the CARES package. The State of California lost 3 million jobs with 11.4% unemployment as of August.

The State legislature convened and recessed several times with truncated sessions and nothing accomplished. With personal feuds, bills died.

Can California sustain itself with high energy, housing and taxes as its economy drifts downward, he asked rhetorically?

Local school districts particularly are pinched. The State budget shorted the schools $11 billion. In a sleight-of-hand, the money appears to be there, but they are not able to spend it, so they look to borrowing. Municipal revenue is down with pension obligations up, so there are several hundred parcel taxes, sales taxes or new bonds proposed.

Praying the economy will pick up or the Federal government will bail out Califoria, the state is in an unpredictable situation. Which candidate in November will smile on California?

Because the state is short on funds, it is demanding the companies pay benefits to employees, such as family leave. So how much can the State impose on business, he said? Some may be pushed over the edge. Some may leave the State.

Yet, in spite of this precarious financial situation, Governor Newsom declared the end to combustion vehicles and told the three major pension systems (CalPERS, CalSTRS and UC System) to reinvest in “green investments”. With such systems under stress, they will turn to the cities for more money.

The big ballot issues in 2020 are: Proposition 15, Proposition 16 and Proposition 22.

Taxpayers at Risk

Jon Coupal, President of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, reminded that HJTA and its 200,000 members exist to defend California homeowners. Prop 13 continues to be popular according to PPIC. He congratulated VCTA for its work with Simi Valley and its negative decision on risky Pension Obligation Bonds (POB).

The 2020 Prop 15 (Split Roll) is an attempt to tax commercial and residential categories of property with different methodologies. California has had a unified tax roll since the 1800’s, which the original Prop 13 did not change, he said.

Prop 13 provides predictability and stability for homeowners, business and municipalities.

The proposed “Split Roll” will affect businesses with triple-net leases (like restaurants) where the property tax is passed through from the property owner to the lessee. The $3 million floor is not just for a single property, but for an aggregate of one owner.

Prop 15 calls for re-assessing commercial property every 2-3 years, so where will the army of assessors be found for this massive task? Will counties have to hire new people? And, the property owner may contest the assessment, thus delaying the new tax until the contested assessment is adjudicated.

Prop 15 Title: Tax on Commercial and Industrial Properties for Education and Local Government Funding Initiative

This title has already been proven misleading by the LAO (Legislative Analyst Office) of California in their analysis. According to this report:

Overall, about 60 percent of property taxes go to cities, counties, and special districts. The other 40 percent goes to schools and community colleges. These shares are different in different counties.

With the majority of Prop 15 taxes going to cities, counties and special districts, it is no wonder that all unions support Prop 15, because the cities, counties and special districts can use this new revenue to pay their growing pension obligations.

Diverse Coalition Against Prop 15

The list is long and diverse of those who realize that a state in a downward spiral with the highest taxes in the nation does not need new taxes. See this list.

Prop 19 Generational Warfare

Jon Coupal pointed out that HJTA supported the concept of allowing seniors to carry their property assessments across counties when they moved when it was proposed previously. But this time, there is a new wrinkle. In order to pay for this tax relief, the offsetting bargain is the elimination of the original Prop 13 feature which lets families pass homes to children or grandchildren, so HJTA is not supporting Prop 19 in 2020.

Questions to Speakers

There were many questions to the speakers. One in particular was about the “wealth tax” which has received much press. Dan Walters feels that since Governor Newsom is against this tax and has no appetite to tax wealthy people who pay the bulk of the State’s revenue, this will die, but the alternative from Senator Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) is the tax on services which has been proposed for years and would adversely affect service businesses.

Prop 24 was discussed as the passion of one particularly wealthy San Francisco man. But the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) does not support Prop 24. See Dan Walters column on Prop 24.

Webinar Saved

Thanks to the VCTA and the ColabVC, the event today was saved and will be available for viewing on their respective websites: VCTA and ColabVC

For more information about the author click sherylhamlin dot com

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Edo McGowan

As to government employee retirement. I was doing some analyses which took me into the public works department of one of our local cities. I would sit during the lunch hour in the same area as the lunch tables for the employees and listen to the bragging on how various employees were able to fool their managers into thinking they were “doing their jobs.” These were public works staff. I was later talking to a friend who was a construction contractor and was looking for some extra employees. He remarked about one applicant who came into the office for an interview, flopped down, and before the interview started, wanted to know about breaks, vacation, benefits, time off, etc. This worthy was next seen working for the city.

Sheryl hamlin

To watch the video of the panel, click here…

https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_wjHOrbEnSTiOrTdu1tXarg

Gayle Washburn

County and School Districts got a windfall when Redevelopment ended.
California real estate has appreciated – what – double the rate of inflation since Prop 13? And, the rate of resales has provided attendant increases in property taxes.
However, commercial and retail values are likely to decline due to the “great reset” of COVID.
Prop 15 should fail.