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Rich Gordon: 'People don't understand where taxes go'

 

Rich Gordon, the outgoing San Mateo County supervisor who was elected Nov. 2 to the state Assembly, opposed state Proposition 22, which voters approved on Nov. 2 and which restricts the ability of state government to redirect local property tax revenues away from cities and towns.

It's a county government concern because the state requires counties to pay for public health services. In tough times, when Sacramento looks for creative ways to balance the budget, the Legislature takes on a responsibility to protect a county's tax-based funding mechanisms. Because Prop 22 limits the Legislature's flexibility, county supervisors may have the unpleasant task of trying to comply with unfunded mandates.

As a supervisor, Mr. Gordon would have had to deal with the mandate side of things. But with his election to the state Assembly, he is now on the other side of that interaction.

"The less freedom that the Legislature has to deal with financial issues, the greater impact it could have for the county to deliver health and welfare services," Mr. Gordon said matter-of-factly in an interview.

But has it been fair for the Legislature to descend on cities and towns and use heretofore unchecked power to extract property tax revenues? "I happen to believe that we need to find a way to change some of the tax structure of California," Mr. Gordon replied.

Property tax revenues have the patina of being local, but in many ways they are not, Mr. Gordon said. Proposition 13, which voters approved in 1978 to limit local government's control of these tax revenues, effectively redirected them to Sacramento.

The picture of taxpayer views is fairly black and white, he said. Voters approved Proposition 26, which checks a local government's ability to charge fees, and they rejected Proposition 21, an $18 surcharge on vehicle license fees to benefit parks and wildlife conservation. With all tax increases requiring approval of a two-thirds majority of voters, "the likelihood of an increase in taxes is almost nonexistent," Mr. Gordon said.

Government obligations being what they are, it may be time to look at the tax structure. "There's a really interesting opportunity available at the moment. Government could be more efficient, more effective and more accountable," he said. "I think that this is the kind of thing that has a great possibility for discussion in Sacramento."

Prop 25

"Enough is enough," voters said about annual budget stalemates in Sacramento. Proposition 25 now allows the budget to be approved with simple majorities in the Legislature instead of the two-thirds majorities that have stalled things seemingly every year.

So what are the consequences? The dynamic between Democrats and Republicans is likely to change, but exactly how remains to be seen, Mr. Gordon said. He does not expect higher taxes, though, because nothing has changed as to the two-thirds majority needed to raise them.

Future budgets could be harsher and "reflect efficiency by necessity" because there won't be enough money to go around, Mr. Gordon said.

Prop 26

Proposition 26 includes provisions that require a local government to treat some fee increases like tax increases: obtain the approval of a two-thirds majority of voters before raising them. The fees targeted by the measure generally concern public health.

A measure like this was in the cards, Mr. Gordon said, noting that "the line between taxes and fees has been obfuscated by local governments."

Push eventually comes to shove, he added. In Burlingame Hills, a majority of residents protested a new fee to clean up sewer discharge. The result: the community that refused to pay to clean up the discharge is now fined for the ongoing discharge.

"People don't understand where their taxes go," Mr. Gordon said. "They feel like they paid their fair share, (in essence saying), 'Use the money I already gave for sewers. Don't ask me for more.'"

What if the Legislature were to connect the dots for taxpayers as to where their taxes went? "It would be a very positive step," Mr. Gordon said.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Robert Cline
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Nov 12, 2010 at 9:38 am

It is clear that Gordon’s first priority in Sacramento is a tax increase to increase pay and benefits for the bloated state bureaucracy. He supports all of the union backed infrastructure projects which is his way of paying back the financial support that paid for his campaign.


Like this comment
Posted by Earl Richards
a resident of another community
on Nov 12, 2010 at 11:48 am

The Polluters Protection Act or PROP 26 is a treacherous, Big Oil rip-off, which "passes the buck" from oil corporation, clean-up fees to the taxpayer, who will pay the oil recycling fees, the toxic waste fees and other fees. Repeal Prop 26 and restore democracy. Solar power to the people. Big Oil snookered Californians with Prop 26.


Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 13, 2010 at 11:31 am

Rich Gordon said: "Government could be more efficient, more effective and more accountable." How about adding "less intrusive"? Government should get out of the "nanny" business, and stop competing with, or corrupting, private charities.
"That government is best which governs least" Thoreau
We need a down-sizing of government at all levels.
Prop 13 is a California success story which should be emulated by our sister states.


Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 14, 2010 at 10:14 pm

I have so much confidence that Mr. Gordon has the best interest of his constituency in mind; rather he is swayed by the people who fund his campaigns.

The only good thing would be if he retired from politics.


Like this comment
Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 15, 2010 at 10:50 am

Lets see, what these people mean is "They feel like they paid their fair share, (in essence saying), 'Use the money I already gave for sewers. Don't ask me for more.'"

IS:

I bought a house in the Burlingame hills for $3 Million; I already pay over $30,000 a year in property taxes, and now you tell me that I need to pay more. Where does my $30,000 get me?

Trust me, you are on the right track Gordon. We do not know where are money is going, and the more we spend on government, the less we see to get for the money. The money wheel was going to stop at some point. Welcome to your new job!


Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 15, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Unfortunately it is all too obvious where our taxes go. This state is owned lock, stock, and barrel by the public unions and their Democratic stooges. They have one interest in mind, and that is increasing the wages and benefits of their members. The future prosperity and happiness of the citizens is very far down on the list of concerns, if it is a concern at all.


Like this comment
Posted by Earl Richards
a resident of another community
on Dec 9, 2010 at 2:22 am

The Polluters Protection Act or PROP 26 is a treacherous, Big Oil rip-off, which "passes the buck" from oil corporation, clean-up fees to the taxpayer, who will pay the oil recycling fees, the toxic waste fees and other fees. Repeal Prop 26 and restore democracy. Solar power to the people. Big Oil snookered Califrinians with Prop 26.


Like this comment
Posted by BUGSY
a resident of another community
on Dec 9, 2010 at 12:56 pm

[Post removed, terms of use. Please take your personal attacks elsewhere.]


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Jun 6, 2017 at 12:15 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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