With the OC Register editorial desk, it’s a pretty simple equation. You’ll earn their support if you agree to always oppose any tax increase or agree never to take money from public employee unions. New State Rep. Sharon Quirk-Silva has already demonstrated that she’s a caution interview subject in speaking with the Register’s opinion writers in today’s editorial.
Our friends at the Register’s opinion desk are scared of two things right now. That the new Democratic super-majorities in the State Assembly and State Senate will rush to increase taxes right away. And they fear any sort of left wing voice on their editorial pages (today’s Nick Berardino “Orange Grove” column on Costa Mesa is as close as you’ll get to Fair and Balanced on these pages).
From the Register’s editorial:
State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, is pushing a bill that would drop to 55 percent from two-thirds the threshold to pass local school parcel taxes. Public school districts already have the authority to float bonds with the 55 percent threshold.
A similar bill by state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, would make 55 percent the threshold for passing local library parcel taxes and bonds.
“Those proposals I have not seen,” Ms. Quirk-Silva said. “I would look at new tax revenues only with the most careful consideration.” She said she understood the concern may people have, especially in her district, that a Democratic supermajority might be too eager to increase taxes.
She believes that “jobs and education go together.” As someone who benefitted from community colleges, she wants to bolster them. “Without 21st century learning, we not only will see jobs leave the state. But employers will not find the right kinds of employees unless we invest in education.” Well, some of the Proposition 30 tax increase money will go to community colleges. And in Orange County, voters also just passed nearly $900 million in bonds for two community college districts.
We wish Ms. Quirk-Silva were stronger in opposing tax increases and being careful with new spending ideas. But that was Mr. Norby’s agenda, and he lost.
Ms. Quirk-Silva’s careful responses to our questions, and the articulation of her agenda, indicate that the Democratic supermajority probably will be cautious for now.
What the Register fails to note is that if either of these bills pass and are signed into law, the Legislature isn’t raising taxes but merely lowering the threshold for local communities to pass their own local parcel taxes to benefit schools and libraries. In Irvine, one of the lowest funded school districts in the state, lowering the threshold for a parcel tax would make it easy to add more local dollars to the district under local control and ease the burden of Irvine parents who cut generous checks to their schools and IPSF to subsidize the city’s excellent school system.
In 1999, a parcel tax of $95 per parcel — less that $8 a month — captured nearly 63 percent of the vote but failed to get the needed two-thirds majority in order to implement the tax. State Rep. Chuck DeVore and State Rep. Don Wagner were no help in efforts to make it easier to lower the threshold to pass taxes like this. Irvine is a much larger city today than in 1999 with more students, more schools and more parcels. Excellent schools lead to great companies locating here as the OC Business Journal has documented the city’s outstanding local economy. And a strong local economy means a solid tax base from which to provide an excellent quality of life, effective public safety, and great recreation facilities.
So to be clear, the new Democratic super majority wouldn’t be raising taxes but instead, lowering the threshold for local cities and towns to vote on local taxes. In an age where school board and community leaders seek more local control for local school districts, a local parcel tax could pump millions of dollars into local school districts that Sacramento might not have any say over how those dollars are spent. It would be better for the district to have a parcel tax than flat new bonds, and it will be interesting to see if our “pro-education” Republican city council majority would support a parcel tax that flies in the face of their position on no new taxes.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, Americans pay a lower percentage of their income on local, state and federal taxes today than they did in the 1950s. The cost of real estate (buying or renting), healthcare, energy, and transportation has increased dramatically. Lowering the threshold for cities to pass local taxes is a step in the right direction that Republicans in the state legislature used to block. Reforming Prop 13 is always a possibility if the Democratic SuperMajority needs a bargaining chip.