March 5, 2003
The Democrat-controlled legislature in California is not happy with the “no new taxes” message they have been receiving from their constituents lately. But could they actually be silencing the citizens who believe in the “no new taxes” message?
An organization called the Campaign for California Families is helping California residents deliver the “no new taxes” message to their lawmakers. However, CCF claims that some e-mails sent through their website are being blocked and not allowing the citizens of California to petition their government.
The CCF claims that the State of California’s Legislative Data Center has been blocking e-mail messages sent by people who are opposed to tax increases through their pro-family conservative website. The accusations have become so serious that CCF decided to take legal action to stop the state from selectively blocking e-mail messages sent by California residents. A petition for writ of mandate was filed in Sacramento County by the United States Justice Foundation on behalf of CCF and conservative citizens in California.
Through their website, CCF has made it easy for California taxpayers to have their voice heard by every state legislator and Gov. Gray Davis. In the first 40 hours of CCF’s “no new taxes” campaign, nearly 1,000 e-mail messages were sent to every legislator, including both Democrats and Republicans, protesting any new taxes and fees to solve the state’s budget crisis.
In response to the complaints they received about silencing citizens, a representative from the State of California’s Legislative Date Center admitted that they were rejecting any and all incoming e-mails sent to them through CCF’s website as of last Wednesday afternoon. On that day alone, more than 22,000 e-mail messages were either blocked or destroyed by this action.
Needless to say, this is a clear abuse of power by the state of California. Why should private citizens be denied their constitutional right to petition their government? This is exactly the same thing as telling the United States Postal Service to not deliver mail to certain addresses. It’s wrong!
So, I decided to conduct an impromptu experiment. I wanted to try out the CCF website for myself to see if my message of “no new taxes” would go through. Of course, since I am not a citizen of the state of California (thank you, Jesus!), I wrote the e-mail as if I were to see what kind of response I would receive.
The following is a copy of the message that I sent through the CCF website to Gov. Gray Davis and all of the state legislators:
Raising taxes is NOT the answer to our state's financial woes. It is incumbent upon you to think of other ways to create revenue, including cutting wasteful non-essential areas of state government. At the same time, we do not need any additional service fees or other "hidden taxes" to get California out of this financial dilemma. You are our elected leaders and have been given the task of solving this issue. I expect you to do it creatively and expeditiously! Thank you!
Within seconds after sending that message through the CCF website, I began receiving automated messages like this one from many of the state legislators:
Thank you for your recent e-mail. I appreciate hearing from you.
As I receive thousands of e-mails a month from individuals throughout our nation and around the world, please know that a more specific response is only possible if you have included a mailing address.
Again, thank you for contacting my office and sharing your concerns with me.
I am sure that California lawmakers do indeed receive a very large number of e-mails each month. That is why many of them in their automated responses required that I provide an address to prove that I live in their district. In those cases, I simply ended the experiment there. I received a total of 27 automated messages in all, including one from Gov. Gray Davis.
However, I was pleasantly surprised to receive about 6 personal responses directly relating to the “no new taxes” message I wrote like this one:
Thank you for your recent e-mail regarding concerns you have with the California State Budget. I do understand your views.
For the last two years in the Assembly, I have been advocating for measured spending reductions in order to bring fiscal responsibility to the State. Assembly Democrats ignored these recommendations and by not taking the small steps needed to address the issues have contributed greatly to causing this budget crisis. Since these preventive measures were not acted upon, solving the budget crisis will be much more difficult and painful.
On January 10, 2003, Governor Davis released his proposed 2003-04 state budget. Although the Governor has claimed the deficit is $35 billion, the non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office has not been able to verify that number. The governor's spending proposal includes more than $20 billion in spending reductions - nearly enough to balance a $26 billion deficit forecasted by the Legislative Analyst's Office. By proposing a list of nearly $21 billion in spending reductions, the governor proved that the state's short-term budget problems could be solved without increasing taxes on hard-working Californians.
The Governor's budget proposal also includes more than $8 billion in tax hikes that are simply irresponsible and unnecessary given the widespread skepticism about the Administration's $35 billion deficit estimate. Instead of driving jobs out of California, Assembly Republicans are working to create a job-friendly climate by pushing for the repeal of several job-killer bills signed by Governor Davis last year. These include measures that increased the cost of workers' compensation and unemployment insurance.
In four years, we have witnessed the state go from having multi-billion dollar surpluses to deficits exceeding $26 billion. Having a budget structure that permits such erratic highs and lows is not fair to the businesses or workers of California. A structural change to the budget process is needed immediately to provide economic stability.
With this in mind, I am introducing an Assembly Constitutional Amendment to place spending limits on the state budget that would limit growth in spending to the growth in the state's population and inflation. In addition to placing caps on year to year spending, ACA 6 establishes a "rainy day" reserve fund to help soften the impact of revenue shortages in lean years. My proposal would require the state to transfer excess revenues, up to 10 percent of total spending, to the "rainy day" fund. It also requires the state to rebate a portion of any further excess to taxpayers and school districts.
I will be keeping an open mind and will listen to all possible solutions, but any proposed tax increases by legislative Democrats would not be looked upon favorably as a final solution. Raising taxes will further harm our economy, and prevent us from creating jobs and putting people back to work. According to a study by the Cato Institute, states that raised taxes to cover budget shortfalls slowed economic growth - while states that avoided tax hikes saw impressive records of economic prosperity.
California cannot continue to live beyond its means, and it is my priority to look for ways to reduce state spending through every possible area - particularly in state bureaucracy. You have a household budget that you must live within; the state of California should do the same.
Although that one was very thorough and lengthy, there was one that was brief and to the point:
Please be aware that I have never supported a tax increase, and I certainly will not vote to raise your taxes this year.
I must note that every personal response I received to my e-mail about “no new taxes” was from Republicans. I was surprised that not a single Democratic lawmaker attempted to make the case for tax increases as the solution to the budget crisis. Interesting. Here’s another personal response to my e-mail:
Thank you for emailing me regarding the state budget deficit and its effect on our taxes. As you know, California is facing the largest budget deficit in its history and the prospects for a quick turnaround are slim.
Given the severity of the crisis, the Governor and the Legislature are going to face some very tough decisions. During the last four years state spending has ballooned by 37%. The overspending addiction in our Capitol has placed the state in a position where it must now struggle to meet its most vital and important needs, such as public safety, without placing additional tax burdens upon taxpayers and our economy.
With the possibility of a deficit as large as $35 billion, it is crucial that we root out the waste and inefficiencies in government to ensure that the taxpayers get a fair deal. For example, Medi-Cal fraud is rampant and is costing the state potentially $2.5 billion per year. That's no way to run a business and it is surely no way to manage our tax dollars.
I want to assure you that I will work diligently to protect your tax dollars by supporting the elimination of waste, fraud and inefficiency as the first step in curing this budget crisis.
Once again, thank you for your correspondence. I will keep your comments in my mind as I confront the budget issues that come before me in the Assembly.
As word got out to the California lawmakers about what the CCF website was doing, one Republican legislator decided to run the budget numbers and put forth viable solutions to illustrate what Republican believe needs to be done to solve the budget problems they are facing:
I will oppose any new tax, as well as the creation or increasing of any fees which may be proposed. Whether it is the increase in the car tax (which has been vetoed, I'm sure in large part due to the public outrage), the sales tax, the gas tax, or any other tax, rest assured I will vote against them all.
Senator McClintock has done the math for us. In the last four years, population and inflation have grown at a combined rate of 21 percent. California general fund revenues have grown 28 percent. General fund spending has grown 36 percent. AFTER taxes were cut and AFTER the economic bubble burst, general fund revenues have still outpaced combined population and inflation growth by fully one third during this administration. Obviously, California isn't suffering a revenue problem. What it has suffered is a monumental spending problem. What we have gotten is a 38 percent increase in state payroll costs, a 38 percent increase in health and welfare spending (even though welfare caseload is down 20 percent), and a 16 percent increase in prison costs (even though the prison population is down 0.6 percent).
This is the information that needs to go out to as many people as possible. The more people telling Sacramento NO, the better chance we have of stopping it before it goes any further. As you know of the 40 State Senators, only 15 are Republican, and of the 80 Assembly members, only 32 are Republican so we have an uphill battle to stop them. But we can hold them with the help of the people of this state.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out what the problem is. The question is how to fix it. Personally, I would just as soon roll back spending to the 1998 levels which would reduce the budget to $58 billion (down from $77 billion). Presto - no problem. However, in reality, I can't see my Democrat colleagues voting that in. However, I do have two proposals that they should be willing to consider (although Governor Davis's office dismissed them). I'll set them out for you here, and you decide.
1. The first solution requires people to refresh their memory a little. Think back to 1998. Was the California government so bad back then? Were women and children dying and suffering from lack of government spending? Not really. If all non-education spending was rolled back to 1998 levels, that is, if we got rid of the 47,000 new employees we've authorized since 1998, and rolled back our state government spending growth in welfare entitlements and new "health care" spending and entitlements, plus ended the huge growth in new regulations since 1998, we could roll back spending next year to $66.5 billion. That would create a $3 billion surplus next year. Freeze non-education spending again in the two years following the upcoming budget years, and the state can pay off the entire budget deficit created this year, and have about a $1 billion surplus in two years;
2. Solution two says freeze all non-education spending at this year's level. Education is guaranteed full Prop 98 funding. We avoid massive cuts, but, if we do that, we don't start running surpluses for three years, and we don't pay off the debt created by this three years' worth of deficits five years. Three years of deficits is not a pleasant thing to contemplate, but this solution avoids making cuts to anyone. It does freeze spending for everyone, however, for five years.
Obviously, I prefer the first solution to the second, but the second would work, it would just take longer. The budget submitted by Governor Davis is predicted to have deficits for at least six years, with no provision for paying off those deficits, even with the tax increases. Either of my proposals have the benefit of limiting the deficits to a year certain, and eliminating the debt before the end of the next Governor's term. Either is preferable to the current disaster proposed by the Governor.
Here are a few of the tax proposals they are considering besides the car tax increase (which Governor Davis vetoed February 4, 2003, but which will undoubtedly come up again before this year is over):
Increase in gasoline taxes
1 cent hike in sales taxes
5 cents a bullet tax
5 cents a drink you would order in a bar, or buy at the grocery store
83% increase in the tobacco taxes
A diaper disposal tax
A new tax on your phone bill to help fund the CHP
Hiking the top income tax bracket to 11% from 9.3% (which would impact most two income families)
Charging sales taxes on services which they haven't done before
Removing commercial property from Prop 13 property tax protection (giving
our businesses one more reason to leave the state)
And the list just keeps getting longer and longer. And this doesn't include some of the new fees they are proposing (which only need simple majority votes), or the fees they are talking about increasing.
It is imperative that the people in this state continue to speak out loud and clear on this issue, especially those individuals who live in districts represented by Democrats. If the people remain passive, the Democrats will roll right over them with their proposals. I know I can count on you to continue to speak out against new taxes.
Although I received some very compelling e-mails from Republican legislators with good ideas about solving the budget problems in California, unfortunately, it will probably not be enough since the Democrats are in control of both the state legislature and governor’s mansion. However, websites like CCF are making an impact by allowing people to become more active in the political affairs of their state. Maybe we can get them to start a similar website in South Carolina!!!
Nevertheless, CCF should be pleased to learn that their “no new taxes” message is getting through to the state legislators loud and clear, at least according to my experiment. Citizen silencing does not seem to exist in California (at least for now).