News

City opposes measure to raise bar for new taxes

Palo Alto officials pass resolution opposing proposed ballot measure that would require two-thirds voter support for new taxes

Palo Alto is taking a stance against a proposed state measure that would make it harder for cities to adopt new taxes, despite concerns from two City Council members that the city's is acting too hastily in its opposition.

The council voted 7-2 on April 16, with Councilman Greg Tanaka and Councilwoman Lydia Kou dissenting, to pass a resolution opposing what's known as the "Tax Fairness, Transparency and Accountability Act of 2018." Crafted by the California Business Roundtable, the proposed measure would require any new tax to win support from two-thirds of voters and reclassify certain service fees as taxes.

Proponents of the measure note that Californians are already among of the most heavily taxed people in the country. They point to U.S. census data showing that Californians, while making up 12 percent of the national population, paid 17 percent of all taxes collected by states. For too long, the measure states, "politicians, state and local government, and special interests have promised that taxpayer money will be spent for a specific purpose, only to divert its use once the money starts coming in."

The purpose of the measure, according to its own wording, is to "ensure that taxpayers have the right and ability to effectively balance new or increased taxes, fees, charges, or other government revenues with the rapidly increasing costs Californians are already paying for housing, food, gasoline, energy, healthcare, education and other basic costs of living."

But in Palo Alto, where city leaders are eyeing a tax to pay for infrastructure improvements, the proposed measure could pose a fresh obstacle. In voting to oppose the measure, the council majority shared the assessment of City Manager James Keene, who argued that the measure isn't so much about "transparency" as it is about letting businesses avoid paying their fair share for the services they receive.

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The resolution the council approved makes the case that the purpose of the measure is to allow businesses to "escape from their existing obligations" and that, if approved, it would "shift the burden of these uncovered costs from business interests to local general funds supported by taxpayers, and thereby reduce general funds available to support police, fire, park, planning and other community services."

The resolution, which the council approved on its "consent calendar" with little discussion, also argues that the measure is the very opposite of "fair," in that it places a minority of voters in control of public decision-making, thus "negating a fundamental practice of majority rule in our democracy."

Mayor Liz Kniss, who earlier this month went to a League of California Cities meeting, said the attendees had spent about an hour discussing the ramifications the measure would have for local governments, which she called "pretty extreme." Most of her colleagues agreed and joined her in opposing the measure.

Tanaka, a passionate advocate for fiscal restraint, took a different view and argued that the proposed measure "seems to have a lot of really good elements." Though he didn't go as far as endorsing the measure, he said he was disappointed by the council's decision to pass a resolution of opposition on the "consent calendar," without real debate.

"This is a time when the council is considering going to the ballot on an infrastructure bill. I'd say, for us to do that, it means we want to make sure our house is in order," Tanaka said. "So for us to automatically, without any discussion, oppose a measure which is trying to improve tax fairness, transparency and accountability doesn't seem right."

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Kou also declined to take a stance on the proposed measure, which is now going through the signature-gathering process (it needs 585,407 signatures to qualify for the November ballot). It's important for the council and the community to have a better understanding of the new ballot measures before the city commits to a position, Kou argued.

She said she wanted to make sure the public understands the initiative and that residents should have "the opportunity to decide based on the pros and cons presented to them."

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City opposes measure to raise bar for new taxes

Palo Alto officials pass resolution opposing proposed ballot measure that would require two-thirds voter support for new taxes

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Apr 24, 2018, 4:40 pm

Palo Alto is taking a stance against a proposed state measure that would make it harder for cities to adopt new taxes, despite concerns from two City Council members that the city's is acting too hastily in its opposition.

The council voted 7-2 on April 16, with Councilman Greg Tanaka and Councilwoman Lydia Kou dissenting, to pass a resolution opposing what's known as the "Tax Fairness, Transparency and Accountability Act of 2018." Crafted by the California Business Roundtable, the proposed measure would require any new tax to win support from two-thirds of voters and reclassify certain service fees as taxes.

Proponents of the measure note that Californians are already among of the most heavily taxed people in the country. They point to U.S. census data showing that Californians, while making up 12 percent of the national population, paid 17 percent of all taxes collected by states. For too long, the measure states, "politicians, state and local government, and special interests have promised that taxpayer money will be spent for a specific purpose, only to divert its use once the money starts coming in."

The purpose of the measure, according to its own wording, is to "ensure that taxpayers have the right and ability to effectively balance new or increased taxes, fees, charges, or other government revenues with the rapidly increasing costs Californians are already paying for housing, food, gasoline, energy, healthcare, education and other basic costs of living."

But in Palo Alto, where city leaders are eyeing a tax to pay for infrastructure improvements, the proposed measure could pose a fresh obstacle. In voting to oppose the measure, the council majority shared the assessment of City Manager James Keene, who argued that the measure isn't so much about "transparency" as it is about letting businesses avoid paying their fair share for the services they receive.

The resolution the council approved makes the case that the purpose of the measure is to allow businesses to "escape from their existing obligations" and that, if approved, it would "shift the burden of these uncovered costs from business interests to local general funds supported by taxpayers, and thereby reduce general funds available to support police, fire, park, planning and other community services."

The resolution, which the council approved on its "consent calendar" with little discussion, also argues that the measure is the very opposite of "fair," in that it places a minority of voters in control of public decision-making, thus "negating a fundamental practice of majority rule in our democracy."

Mayor Liz Kniss, who earlier this month went to a League of California Cities meeting, said the attendees had spent about an hour discussing the ramifications the measure would have for local governments, which she called "pretty extreme." Most of her colleagues agreed and joined her in opposing the measure.

Tanaka, a passionate advocate for fiscal restraint, took a different view and argued that the proposed measure "seems to have a lot of really good elements." Though he didn't go as far as endorsing the measure, he said he was disappointed by the council's decision to pass a resolution of opposition on the "consent calendar," without real debate.

"This is a time when the council is considering going to the ballot on an infrastructure bill. I'd say, for us to do that, it means we want to make sure our house is in order," Tanaka said. "So for us to automatically, without any discussion, oppose a measure which is trying to improve tax fairness, transparency and accountability doesn't seem right."

Kou also declined to take a stance on the proposed measure, which is now going through the signature-gathering process (it needs 585,407 signatures to qualify for the November ballot). It's important for the council and the community to have a better understanding of the new ballot measures before the city commits to a position, Kou argued.

She said she wanted to make sure the public understands the initiative and that residents should have "the opportunity to decide based on the pros and cons presented to them."

Comments

I'll vote for it
Midtown
on Apr 24, 2018 at 8:16 pm
I'll vote for it, Midtown
on Apr 24, 2018 at 8:16 pm

This proposed measure sounds like a great idea to me. I am tired of being so heavily taxed in this state and getting so little in return. Requiring a 2/3 majority for any new tax is something I would welcome. Let's force state and local governments to live within their means by prioritizing expenditures, eliminating bloat and waste, and looking for efficiencies rather than always looking for taxpayers to pay more.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 24, 2018 at 9:10 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Apr 24, 2018 at 9:10 pm

Good for Tanaka and Kuo. PA spends too much time and money and it's high time that the other CC members stop treating us like cash cows. How about some fiscal restraint?

Maybe we wouldn't have needed to spend another $1,300,000 on a third rail consultant if Corey had spend less time worrying about his proposed soda tax. Maybe Mr. Mello would't have needed to hire a roundabout consultant to tell 915+ residents we were wrong if he'd listened to the community in the first pace.

Maybe PAUSD wouldn't need to hire a consultant to test the waters for another tsx increase if they'd had a clue how many people are opting out of paying the parcel tax because that's the only recourse we have when the city ignores us, the residents and taxpayers.


Concerned Observer
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2018 at 11:21 am
Concerned Observer, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2018 at 11:21 am

How about we get our city officials to work with the budget they have and vote them out of office if they can't or won't. California is becoming a one party state (I don't need to tell you which one),governed by a tax and spend philosophy, much of which goes to special projects, unfunded pensions and illegal immigration costs. It's not working despite our state leaders telling us we are the 6th largest economy in the world. We are in debt up to our ears and no one seems to care that our children and grandchildren will inherit the mess our liberal leaders have gotten us into.

Maybe Palo Alto can learn from Mountain View, which operates on less money and provides as good or better services to it's tax paying citizens.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2018 at 11:40 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2018 at 11:40 am

PACC is AGAINST the "Tax Fairness, Transparency and Accountability Act of 2018". Go figure.

Out City Council, excepting Kou and Tanaka, approved opposition to the Act on the oft-abused (in my opinion, anyway) Consent Calendar. Translation: acted upon without discussion. And the mayor says this is so that residents have "the opportunity to decide based on the pros and cons presented to them." I guess the assumption is that we will understand the pros and cons WITHOUT the benefit of public discussion.

You know things have gotten well out of hand when we need a new act that calls for fundamentals to be honored. Fair, transparent and accountable are words that should define all taxes. And when taxes are levied, the revenue should be spent on the intended and stated purpose.


Ryan
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2018 at 5:55 am
Ryan, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2018 at 5:55 am

Taxes will need to be raised to pay for “out of control” employee pensions...unless the city changes the type of pension.


George
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 26, 2018 at 7:45 am
George, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 26, 2018 at 7:45 am

The future belongs to well managed communities that pay their bills, pave the streets, and provide good places for people to prosper. Despite all of the good intentions, that is not Palo Alto. Maybe not today, or tomorrow but soon, people and businesses will look elsewhere. Politicians don’t seem to get it and the electorate, just as sure as Newsome is pre-destined to win in a one part state, will re-elect the people who got us here.

The measure is a really good idea for a council addicted to wasteful spending.

Two to consider:

Web Link

Web Link


Observer
University South
on Apr 26, 2018 at 8:40 am
Observer, University South
on Apr 26, 2018 at 8:40 am

There may be other legitimate complaints about city performance, but the city now has the streets in the county with a Pavement Condition Index of over 80.


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