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Tandem tax-hike schemes

Orange County Register
Editorial
October 9, 2009

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, called to say that our Oct. 2 editorial urging the governor to veto Mr. Torlakson 's Assembly Bill 267 mistakenly said the legislation would lower the required two-thirds voter approval to a simple majority for enacting new parcel taxes for schools.

We stand corrected. AB267 by itself wouldn't do that. But a "companion" bill, also authored by Mr. Torlakson, would. And AB267 paves the way.

Mr. Torlakson "argues that" the two bills "together would broaden opportunities for local school districts to raise local revenue through a majority vote," according to an Assembly staff analysis.

Another Assembly analysis explaining the second bill, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 10, says: "If both this bill (AB276) and ACA10 are enacted, then an educational finance district would be able to levy qualified special taxes with only a majority vote."

That clearly is Mr. Torlakson's intent. His office assures us he still desires ACA10 to become law and hasn't any plans to withdraw it from the Assembly, where it remains under consideration.

The two bills are intended to work together. If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs AB267, which has passed the Legislature, it would enable contiguous school districts to create a new joint taxing authority and ask voters for approval of new parcel taxes, a regressive flat fee that disproportionately penalizes owners of small parcels. If ACA10 also is passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, a statewide ballot measure would ask voters to lower the two-thirds approval requirement for those new parcel taxes to a simple majority.

By itself, AB276 is bad enough. It would authorize individual school districts to merge into new taxing districts. That could overcome voter opposition to new taxes in one school district by merging with voters of another district who want new taxes. AB267 is simply a scheme to make it easier to impose new regressive parcel taxes on property owners.

If ACA10 becomes law, as Mr. Torlakson desires, new regressive taxes would be even easier to impose with a simple majority vote.

Mr. Torlakson wants both bills to become law. But a representative in his office asked us not to mention ACA10 when clarifying the effects of SB267. Nevertheless, we owe it to readers and taxpayers to explain the bills' connection.

We originally described SB267 as enabling a new, stealthy tax. It would. It would be even stealthier not to mention its connection to Mr. Torlakson's other bill, ACA10. The governor should veto the bill on his desk, SB267, and ACA10, should it also be approved by the Legislature.

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