Vote no on Measure J

September 28, 2016
Gordon Mullin

Gordon Mullin

OPINION by GORDON MULLIN

Measure J is yet another proposed tax increase on November’s ballot. It’s been requested by our local governments and is intended to fund roads and transportation infrastructure. I’m voting no. Here’s why.

First, some background. The State of California used to pass along a bigger slice of the gasoline and other state levied taxes to the junior levels of government, counties and cities, with the intent that the money would be used for road upkeep and transportation projects. But, and this will come as no surprise to anyone who follows California politics, the state has been keeping an increasing share of these funds and spending them on their own priorities.

Obviously, the state feels that giving money to local governments and letting them spend your tax dollars is not as satisfying as keeping the money and spending it themselves despite previous assurances that they would pass it on. There is more political power garnered if one controls where a tax dollar is spent as opposed to passing it on to junior levels where they then get the credit at the ballot box.

So the local governments have less money today to spend on roads than they used to. No one disputes this. Not I.

Therefore, the SLO County government and its cities are proposing to us taxpayers that we become a “self help” county, increase the sales tax and use the money to fund roads and other transportation infrastructure.  The SLO Council of Governments (SLOCOG) guesstimates that a one-half percent increase in the sales tax, county wide, would generate about $25 million a year and that’s about what they want, another $25 million.

Let me pause here to throw a small wad of mud at the backers of Measure J. If you go to their website you’ll find that they continue, despite knowing better, to call the tax “a half cent” sales tax rather than what it really is,  a one-half of one percent (0.5 percent) sales tax.

Some folks know the two phrases have different meanings; some obviously are math challenged and can’t tell the difference. Are they purposely misleading voters? I don’t know. But I know for certain what the real wording is in the Measure, as do they, the actual wording is found on their website, in the ordinance itself. Yet, they purposely use false language to sell the measure.

That aside, I feel better now, I don’t want to give an extra $25 million to county governments. Why not you ask? Here’s why.

Now, for the sake of discussion, I’ll assume that we could use more investment in filling potholes and transportation planning, etc. And, I’m willing to assume we need, let’s say, an extra $25 million on top of existing road budgets to do it. My objection is why an additional tax?

Why not rethink existing budgets, reset priorities within existing revenues? Why does government always ask for more taxpayer dollars?  Why not shuffle existing budgets and use some of those funds to fill pot holes?

I’ll tell you why politicians don’t like the idea. Because it’s hard to do. Behind every dollar currently spent by governments stands a constituency that receives benefit and they’ll get mad at any politician that asks for a buck to be moved from pot A to pot B, if you work for pot A. That’s the problem and every politician knows it.

Think back and ask yourself, when’s the last time a government decided to axe a program because they wanted to use the money elsewhere? Anyone know? Anyone remember?

Recall. Every government program at one point didn’t exist. Then someone said let’s do X. Let’s tax our citizens, provide X program or service to those in ‘need’ and let’s see how it goes.

From that springs two groups. The first is the civil service employee and the second is the recipient of said service. The first becomes invested in their job, salary, benefits and pension and the second comes to feel that the service is now an entitlement and both will object strenuously if it comes under threat. The program become a sacred cow and the two groups will vigorously work, come election time, against any politician that even thinks of challenging the existing order.

Politicians know that there are few motivations as powerful as the loss of a job or an entitlement. All programs become third rails. So every program becomes an entitlement and therefore untouchable, especially at the local level.

Then every time governments want to do something additional, and in the case of Measure J spend an extra $25 million on roads, they look for new tax revenues from us citizens rather than seek the funds by reallocating the resources they have.

It would be interesting if we asked our elected representatives to stand up and say out loud whether they think Measure J, the very program that they are asking us to fund, if that program is less important than every other program in their existing budgets. Everything else is more important? Is everything dollar being spent currently, better spent now than on the transportation proposal in Measure J?

If the answer is yes, it’s not particularly important, is it?  If it’s no, it is important, then let’s ask, “what will you axe?”

I say, “stop.” We as taxpayers should demand that our governments, at all levels, should have to rethink budgets occasionally. All businesses and your and my family, from time to time are faced with the requirement to rejigger our budgets and so should governments. When family or business revenues change, we rethink our priorities. Why not governments?

But as I said above, it’s hard. It’s difficult, especially if you’re looking to hang on to your elected position.

Here’s two suggestions:

The first is for our county and local elected officials. Institute Zero Base budgeting. There are jurisdictions who already have it in place, and so do many companies. Indeed, a version of this is used religiously in my home.

It works like this:

Every two years, one year is too short a time frame, start from scratch.  Often a city, or county level government will appoint a committee. I know; I too don’t like the idea of more committees, but you’ll see my point shortly.

On this committee, no one can sit who gets a dollar from the government, directly or indirectly. The conflict is evident. That committee evaluates the ‘value’ of every dollar spent, every program offered and prioritizes them; ranks them.

They have nothing to do with revenues received. They are tasked with uncovering inefficiencies, looking for ways and means to save a buck, and asking “if we had to choose, would we axe or modify program X or Y or Z? Which is more important? And, can we get something done more cheaply?”

You get the idea. An outside committee is used because it’s difficult for an elected person to say no to a constituent, employee or recipient. It’s easier for someone external to make that recommendation.

Of course, the elected body will eventually have to make a decision and feel the heat, but it’s mitigated by the committee, acting as a shield. The politician can say, “They made me do it!” It gives them some cover. It makes it easier to accomplish. And, let’s face it, this method would be better than our current, itched in stone, never reevaluate any dollar spent, process in place today.

The idea of zero based budgeting isn’t new and there are several models to choose from. But here’s my point. This is the best mechanism I know of to force government to rethink priorities. There may be others but this is the one I suggest. Got any better ideas?

Keep in mind, we’re talking $25 million here. If you add up the county and the seven incorporated city’s budgets, this $25 million comes to roughly 3 to 5 percent of their total budgets, depending on what you throw into the bucket. Could you reallocate 3 to 5 percent of your budget? Sure you could.

So, let’s make our county and cities do it too.

That’s my first suggestion:

My second suggestion is for you, the voter. Politicians won’t do this unless you force them. Even the good ones, well, I have my favorites. They know the scenario above is very hard to do but you can make it easier for them if you just say no to Measure J at the ballot box. Give them that incentive. Give them the means and motivation to rethink their budgets. Give them this tool, this freedom.

It’s the right thing to do. Else, where does it end? Ask yourself,when do governments stop growing? Answer, when they get no additional taxes.

And if you believe as I do that governments are big enough now, thank you, just say no to Measure J. Make them do the right thing.

It’s time to say no.


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Andrea Seastrand

Great comments Gordon! The Central Coast Taxpayers Association (CCTA) has been leading the opposition on Measure J since the issue was introduced earlier this year. Some $500,000 taxpayer dollars have been spent by the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) to place this measure on the November ballot. Those dollars have been spent on consultants and surveys. And then there is the unknown cost…staff time spent on this issue!


Interesting to note that a four page brochure ‘educating’ the voter on Measure J was recently sent to voters in SLO County. How much did that cost the taxpayers?


Government entities at all levels of government are out of control. It appears the bureaucrats and consultants are running the show! Sad to say, elected officials, in many instances, have abdicated their responsibilities, and do not represent the Forgotten Taxpayer!


Enough, vote NO ON J!


Andrea Seastrand

President

Central Coast Taxpayers Association


RawHoney

Interesting how SLOCOG and our Board of Supervisors except for Supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton, can spend our taxpayer money on consultants and creating a MASSIVE assault on us the forgotten taxpayer instead of using that money to fix roads right NOW!


$500,000 WOW!!!!!!!!!


I bet it costed at least double that when you include STAFF time.


NEVER does the staff of SLOCOG or Board of Supervisors ever fight for us the forgotten taxpayer!


VOTE NO on Measure J


Thank you CCTA for fighting this battle as volunteers not high paid people with an predetermined agenda.


I went to


http://www.ccta.news/home-measure-j/


and went to Home Measure J page and found the video of our spoken citizens as well as Supervisors Arnold, Compton and COLAB Mike Brown telling you why this is a SCAM.


Vote NO NO NO NO NO NO NO


SLOBIRD

People should go to Facebook and search for Measure J and look at who is supporting or opposing and the adds and comments:


Facebook……YES on Measure J San Luis Obispo (no comments are allowed on this site)


Facebook……NO on Measure J San Luis Obispo (comments allowed on this site)


The Bike Clubs, Unions, all the local Cities, and politicians, and our favorite, Wallace Group all supporting Measure J…$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$


rukidding

The Yes on Measure J web page lists all of its supporters. Almost everyone on the list is in line to profit should this Measure pass. Local developers, engineers, large construction companies and cities will all gain financially as we will be paying for their benefit.


RawHoney

Wallace Group


Corruption?


Wallace Group South Sanitation District


Big $


We pay


We the taxpayer pays and pays and Wallace Group gets in on the $$ of course they are yes on M J


V O T E NO on MEASURE J


NO NO NO NO is the right vote!


abigchocoholic

Sorry, but anyone who has ever done business with a California govt. agency knows the last thing you want to do is give them more money unless there is no other choice.


Govt. doesn’t work on profit like private enterprise. Govt. works on fiefdoms. Govt. fiefdoms are little lordships controlled by the leaders (lords). If a govt. fiefdom is given 25m and does the job for 15m, all hell breaks loose and fiefdom is cut in half or disbanded and often times the leader is ousted and new leaders who know how to spend 25m are brought in–and all that’s not good for the current leaders so a Govt. fiefdom Lord always makes sure he/she spends the 25m and then complains that it’s not enough can they have 30m next time, please. That way the leader’s power grows and servants increase in numbers and the fiefdom becomes entrenched and accepted.


That’s just the way govt. works. Always. So any time a govt. asks for a new tax beware.


And yes 1/2 percent is very different than 1/2 cent for anything you buy over $1. A local 1/2 percent sales tax on a car purchase of $30,000 is $150, hardly a half cent. For everyone buying a car next year, it’s another $150 out of your pocket.


rukidding

The $25 million dollars stated are not all for roads. Out of the pie local cities will get 55% of the cut to do as they see fit for roads or whatever they can get away with. The other 45% of the pie goes towards bike paths, transportation, traffic congestion and freeway interchange problems. This is an alternative move to finance SLOCOG that has lost most of its funding. Everyone agrees that road maintenance can use some help. But looking at this Measure most items noted are wants rather than needs. Does everyone want or even need bike paths, are they a priority? Local transportation seems to be working just fine. Traffic congestion on the freeways is solely the responsibility of the state and CalTrans. If we buy into Measure J this will only be the beginning of more additional taxes. But as I see it the real kicker is the freeway interchange part of the Measure. This is where the Measure gets the full support of some developers and cities. Atascadero is already discussing how these funds can be used to complete the Del Rio and 101 off ramp roundabouts. Completely fouling up negotiations with WalMart on this issue has left the city approximately $8 million in the whole.

It’s time that voters take a stand on being over taxed, levied with higher fees and bonds to finance the lifestyles of government. This is a vote that requires a majority vote and all funds are required to be spent on what the Measure is being presented as. I for one have very little confidence that should this be passed that the monies collected will not be spent correctly but will just be another source of funds for additional studies and job security for those to figure out where and how any left over funds will be spent.

VOTE NO ON J


Jorge Estrada

Trump called attention to our public infrastructure, the inferior condition it is in and on his next breath how our tax dollars are being wasted on foreign countries. We don’t need measure J, we need measure T as in Trump. It is refreshing to hear a Presidential candidate speak about the obvious, not lofty BS. More taxes = more BS


easymoney

Vote NO on all of these tax mincreases.

California has some of the highest gas taxes in the nation, with claims that that money goes to roads. See any repair of your local roads? How bout state hwys? If you travel to any neighboring state, you can drive on very nice roads.

The only reason why caltrans ramped up improvements after obamas election is because obama borrowed money he did not have and directed that “recovery and redevelopment” money to be used where it was the most effective photo op for each election cycle. Caltrans spoke of improving hwy 101 from SLO to Paso for decades, yet did nothing until ARRP and TARP were activated…

Now, back to the above article, who thinks any part of this 1/2 percent tax increase will be used on the intended purpose?


NorthCountyGuy

Fraud, waste and abuse of our tax dollars is way out of control.


Firing the incompetent, overpaid employees on our overstaffed state, county and city payrolls (and the incompetent bureaucrats who supervise them) will be a good place to start.


For example, the state employees in the CA Dept of Consumer Affairs are incompetent such that they don’t even know the difference between Satellite tv and Cable tv.


BeenThereDoneThat

Well stated case.


Side_Show_Bob

Agreed