Republican crocodile tears flowed this weekend in Orange County as a group of city officials called F.I.S.T. â€“ â€œFight Insane State Theftâ€ â€“ comprised of 14 Orange County mayors and 42 city council members, nearly all of them Republicans – protested Republican Governor Schwarzenegger’s plan to take away billions in state property tax revenue from their cities.
According to the Orange County Register, the group held a rally this past weekend in Placentia, joined by an array of Republican front organizations posing as anti-tax crusaders, including Citizens for a Better Placentia, Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers, and Yorba Linda Residents for Responsible Representation.
The Register notes that the protesters are â€œparticularly concerned about losing funds for roads and other transportation projects.â€
But it is the Republicans themselves â€“ and their corporate funded anti-tax allies â€“ who are themselves directly responsible for giving the state the power to take away property tax revenue from California cities.
Prior to 1978, local governments in California (as elsewhere in the nation) could set their own property tax rates and spend the money that they raised on local needs.
But the Republicans did not trust local governments or local voters with the power to tax local property or to spend that revenue as they thought appropriate.
So they decided to give the state the sole power to set property taxes and to give the state legislature the sole power to decide how that money would be spent.
Prop 13 took away the cities’ power to set property tax rates or levy property taxes, and gave all such power to the state — where it would be subject to Prop 13â€™s strict limits and the 2/3 rule â€“ in other words, subject to the statewide anti-tax minorityâ€™s veto, regardless of the wishes or needs of local officials or voters.
Now our local Republican elected officials and Republican anti-tax front groups are outraged about â€œlosing funds for roads and other transportation projectsâ€Â — which, by the way, tend to benefit large landowners and developers more than local citizens — because the state wants to spend that money elsewhere.
This latest instance of Orange County Republican hypocrisy reminds me of an exchange from Samuel Beckettâ€™s play Waiting for Godot:
Estragon: We’ve no rights any more?
Laugh of Vladimir, stifled as before, less the smile.
Vladimir: You’d make me laugh if it wasn’t prohibited.
Estragon: We’ve lost our rights?
Vladimir: (distinctly). We got rid of them.
So I ask our Orange County Republicans: Having given up our rights, are you now ready to amend Prop 13 to return the property tax power to local governments and local voters?