The California Tax Revolt

In 1978, California’s Prop 13 became the lightening rod for an anti-tax revolution that two years later would sweep Ronald Reagan into the Presidency.  Thirty-five years later, however, Californians endure one of the heaviest tax burdens in the country.  What happened?  In addition to state increases in income and sales taxes, local governments made an end run around Prop 13 by imposing a nefarious array of local taxes and fees.  This approach has not been limited to California, and such “under the radar” local taxes have skyrocketed since the 1980s.  However, a local California tea party group is using asymmetric political warfare to challenge these local taxes and advance the conservative goal of limiting government.

The strategy recognizes that, unlike the federal government, city and state governments cannot borrow or print money to raise revenue.  If you cut their taxes, you necessarily cut the cycle of perpetual government growth.

The Los Angeles County Tea Party, or TeaPAC, is launching a series of voter initiatives in city elections to repeal local utility taxes across Southern California.  It is a new form of grassroots activism – essentially political guerrilla warfare.  Currently, cities charge non-negotiable rates to residents for power, water, trash collection, sewage and similar services.  Unelected bureaucrats administer this utility monopoly.  Their tax “trick” is that, after charging residents for their utilities, cities then tack on an extra 3-12% “tax”, in essence double charging for supplying the utilities.

The number of signatures required to qualify a tax-limiting initiative in California for a given city ballot is 5% of all votes cast in the city’s last gubernatorial election. Low voter turn out during the 2010 mid-term elections means a few thousand signatures suffice to qualify a measure for the local ballot.

Spread across 48 cities within Los Angeles county, TeaPAC’s grassroots initiative plan could save residents and business taxpayers over one billion dollars in local utility taxes.  That translates to shrinking local government budgets and power.  Duplicated across the country, it is a ground level conservative battle plan individuals can use to erode the foundations of liberalism — one tax a time.