California government employee unions spent nearly $100 million in the lead up to the November election to convince voters to approve new taxes and reject a measure that would have barred unions and corporations form using legal bribery — campaign contributions — to influence state lawmakers.
Now, two of these unions — one representing firefighters and one representing teachers — are spending even more money on expensive radio ads to “thank” voters for rejecting Proposition 32, campaign finance reform. Proposition 32 terrified government employee union leaders, who currently tap workers’ paychecks for union dues that can be used, without limit, for political purposes.
One of the ads claims that the defeat of Proposition 32 is a victory for California’s middle class. The union bosses are now trying to wrap themselves in the mantle of the “middle class.” The San Diego Labor Council has gone so far as to sponsor a front group, the Middle Class Taxpayers Association, but it is a misnomer. The group’s concern is healthy government revenue and is dedicated to broadening the tax base and making sure that others pay their “fair share.”
This union posturing and positioning will come as no surprise to Joel Kotkin, an internationally-recognized authority on global, economic, political and social trends, who has foreshadowed where this is leading. Professor Kotkin has written that California is moving toward having three classes, the very rich, the very poor and a very small middle class made up of those who work for government.
For those members of the California middle class who do not draw a check from the taxpayers, the future remains bleak. Already reports are circulating that, despite the tax increases contained in the just passed Proposition 30, the state will continue to run a deficit. The just-completed cap and trade “carbon credits” auction has produced only a fraction of the revenue on which state planners were counting. This reflects yet another miscalculation, like the unrealized tax revenue resulting from the Facebook IPO, which belies any statement that “gimmicks” have been eliminated from the budget.
Sacramento politicians and their public employee union allies will be looking to fill holes in the budget and to make sure that government workers, the best paid in all 50 states, continue to prosper. Because California already imposes the highest income taxes in the nation on upper income individuals, the attention of those for whom more is never enough will shift to the few remaining dollars in the pockets of middle class taxpayers.
Middle class taxpayers, at least those who haven’t already moved out of California, need to be on alert. Legislators hostile to the interests of taxpayers now totally dominate the Legislature and are in a position to impose new taxes virtually at will. But rather than give up, now is the time for taxpayers who are genuinely concerned about their future in California, to make themselves known to their state representatives.
As they consider the proposals for raising revenues, that will surely come, lawmakers need to have heard from those who already find themselves working longer and harder, not only to look after their own families, but to provide an even greater share of their incomes to the state in the form of taxes.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.