Rich Ulery: When you see tax increases, bond issues, think pensions
October 14, 2016
Despite the fact that Californians bear some of the highest tax burdens in the country, our elected officials at the local and state level have insatiable appetites for more.
In 50 of California's 58 counties, there are 228 local tax measures on the November ballot with a cumulative tax increase of $3 billion.
There are an additional 180 school bond issues on the ballot for $24.6 billion in new debt, which will have to be repaid through higher property taxes.
Nevada County voters have six bond issues or tax increase measures on the November ballot. There are three state initiatives — a continuance of the "temporary" income tax increase originally passed in 2012; an additional $2 per pack cigarette tax; and a $9 billion school bond issue, with another $8.6 billion of attendant interest costs over a 35 year period.
At the local level, voters will decide on the Nevada City sales tax increase, which will fund the Nevada City fire department; a doubling of the sales tax for the libraries; and a $47 million school bond issue.
Voters should keep in mind that few of these measures have anything to do whatsoever with the causes they profess to address.
The state of California and every city, county, and special district must continue to seek tax increases to fund basic core government services, because they must divert millions and billions of dollars annually that would normally support core services into the bottomless pit of public employee pension costs and unfunded pension liabilities.
Tax Measure A in Nevada County is a good example. If passed, it will double the sales taxes that support the library from one-eighth percent to one-quarter percent. County supervisors just directed an additional $3.2 million into the county's pension reserve fund in the 2016-17 budget. The county currently funds approximately 21 percent of the library budget. It could provide a stable and predictable 100 percent of the library's needs as a core county service and eliminate any sales taxes for the library, if the county supervisors didn't have to throw millions away trying to address $182 million of unfunded pension liability.
Until our elected representatives come to grips with this public employee pension debacle and begin to take assertive action to solve the problem, they will annually request more and more tax increases and bond debt that they will claim to be for core services, but in reality, is all to pay for pensions.
It's time to say No.
Nevada County voters are strongly encouraged to vote no on county Measures A, B and C, and state propositions 51, 55, and 56.
Rich Ulery lives in Alta Sierra.