Richard Peiser suggested that our public finance is in a mess (“California Votes No on the Future,” Commentary, June 23) and concludes: “It is time to call for a state initiative, sponsored at the highest levels of government, to reform California’s public finance system . . . one empowered to challenge our most sacred cows: Proposition 13, the percentage of votes required to pass bond issues and the referendum process. . . .”
There is now pending in the California Supreme Court a case in which there is a challenge to Section 4 of Prop. 13. (The case will not affect the property tax provisions of Prop. 13.) Section 4 requires a two-thirds vote for certain kinds of non-property taxes. In that challenge, the Supreme Court is being asked to rule that Section 4 is either unconstitutional or should be limited to measures which directly or indirectly increase only property taxes.
Since Prop. 13, the voters have defeated several constitutional amendments which were intended to require a two-thirds vote on all new taxes. It is clear that the electorate would not have voted for Section 4 of Prop. 13 if it had been severed from the property tax provisions and considered separately.
The challenge also involves the referendum process of Prop. 62. That proposition requires a vote on all new taxes that are not covered by Prop. 13. It has been held to be unconstitutional by the Court of Appeal but the Supreme Court has never ruled on it. This case asks the Supreme Court to rule it unconstitutional.
The case was brought by the Santa Clara County Local Transportation Commission after a new one-half cent sales tax was challenged by the Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann associations and various individuals. If the Supreme Court follows the apparent intent of the electorate, we will not need Peiser’s proposed initiatives.
ALVIN S. KAUFER, Attorney
* In response to the Peiser article, on the contrary, those California voters are concerned about the future of the state. The bonds were voted down precisely for one of the reasons Peiser mentioned. There is weakness in the state’s public finance system.
Prop. 13 is fundamental to a sound California system. It sets limits and guidelines, which are being arbitrarily circumvented by bureaucrats instilling creative financing ideas into “gullible’ local officials and state legislators. Instead of calling Prop. 13 “a sacred cow” needing challenges, what the California taxpayers need is a new system. Income, sales, use, and property taxes, etc., should be more closely tied to the public service functions--for direct accountability. The voters see their sales taxes (i.e., Prop. 172) not going for tangible, quality services as was promised. Education, under the mandate of Prop. 98, should not be dependent, nor based upon, local property taxes. Local taxes should be for property-related services, first and foremost.
Let us have no more state shell games, or local assessment/fee schemes. Let us get our Legislature to redefine the revenue structure of the state and the constitutional responsibilities of various levels of government. Then, as taxes are collected for the public services, each level of government can be responsible and accountable to its constituents for the quality of the service deliveries.
ERNIE DYNDA, President
United Organizations of Taxpayers
* “It’s more important to keep taxes low. . . .” Lower than where? An income tax rate above 9%, sales tax above 8%, and property tax above 1% and the Legislature still wants more money to provide what should be basic government services. I did not vote against public investment, I voted against what I perceive as the Legislature’s inability to set priorities. I have not lived any other place (including New York City), where the general public has so little to show for its tax dollar (except for the best tax-subsidized special-interest groups). Sacramento should remember what happened the last time the public acted against “taxation without representation.”