Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

San Diego’s proposition D: tax first, reform afterward

Jerry Stratton, October 25, 2010

cards: From  of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland

“I gave her one, they gave him two, you gave us three or more; They all returned from him to you, though they were mine before.”

I just received an ad in the mail today urging me to vote Yes on Proposition D, calling it “an important step toward pension and financial reform at City Hall.”

What step? Step number one: raise taxes. That’s always step number one. And it usually ends up being steps two through ten as well.

The proposition claims to require the city to implement ten conditions before it is allowed to raise the tax. The first three conditions contain obvious escape clauses. The fourth and eighth items don’t even require anything to happen other than “solicit” a request or a proposal. The sixth and seventh items, if I’m reading them right, don’t require anything except a one cent saving in each. It doesn’t say how much costs should be reduced, just that they must be reduced.

The tenth item is a whopper. It requires setting up a voluntary pension plan that employees can just ignore—except that it doesn’t, really, because if the city sets up a pension plan that isn’t approved by the IRS, well, the condition is still satisfied.

But what if, when the City Auditor says that the city has met these extremely easy conditions, they’re obviously just rubber-stamping the conditions so that taxes can be raised?

Taxes still go up, that’s what.

Section 13. Enjoining collection forbidden. No injunction or writ of mandate or other legal or equitable process shall issue in any suit, action or proceeding in any court against the State or the City, or against any officer of the State or the City, to prevent or enjoin the collection under this ordinance, or Part 1.6 of Division 2 of the Revenue and Taxation Code, of any tax or any amount of tax required to be collected.1

Got that? If the City Auditor approves the latest Harry Potter book as meeting the conditions the city needs to meet, taxes go up. There is no recourse.

If they were serious about reform, they’d pass the reform first. An honest attempt at reform would make me more likely to approve a temporary tax. But there’s nothing here that’s honest. This is just another salvo by the status quo in the war between the status quo and reformers.

The front of the advertisement I received today is black with a dark red border, and three bullets mean to scare us into raising taxes: you’re going to die, your house is going to burn down, you’re going to be raped, because rather than implement reform we’re just going to cut paramedics, firefighters, and police officers.

It’s what they always do when they want to raise taxes. Say that the taxes are necessary for the core services of government. But there is no limit in this proposition for what this tax is spent on:

Whereas, the City will deposit all revenues it receives from the tax into the general fund of the City to be expended for any lawful government purpose; now, therefor,2

It doesn’t go for essential services, it goes to the general fund, where it can be spent on whatever the city feels like spending it on. I guess we should be happy that they’re not going to use the tax money for illegal purposes. This is San Diego, after all.3

Speaking of shenanigans, that latter part of the “Enjoining collection forbidden” clause frightens me. What is this “Part 1.6 of Division 2 of the Revenue and Taxation Code” that we’re not allowed to fight? It appears to be referencing state tax law. Division 2 is “other taxes”, part 1 is “sales and use taxes”, and chapter 6 is the collection of tax.

More specifically, Division 2 1.6 is about how the state can take whatever they want if they think someone’s been shirking sales taxes.

Section 6701-6704
The board, whenever it deems it necessary to ensure compliance with this part, may require any person subject thereto, to place with it any security that the board may determine.
Section 6796-6799
…the board may forthwith collect the amount in the following manner: The board shall seize any property, real or personal, of the person and sell the property, or a sufficient part of it, at public auction to pay the amount due together with any interest or penalties imposed for the delinquency and any costs incurred on account of the seizure and sale.

These sections are filled with legalese, but it sounds to me like proposition D takes away serious protections against state and city tax screw-ups.

Tax first, reform afterward is looking-glass reform. It’s backward. If they were serious about reform, they would pass the reforms first. Then they could come ask us for more money. That they’re asking for money first means they don’t really plan on reform.

  1. From page 22 of the “Sample Ballot & Voter Information Pamphlet”.

  2. From page 17 of the “Sample Ballot & Voter Information Pamphlet”.

  3. Although, I suppose that if they’re willing to use it for illegal purposes, one uppercase whereas isn’t going to stop them.

  1. <- Popaditch v. Filner
  2. A fragile alliance ->