Plan Bay Area 2040 and the Coming Seas of Taxes

With Plan Bay Area 2040 on the loose, a projected California budget deficit of $1.6 billion, Washington talking about funding cuts, and an aversion to spending reductions afflicting state and county leaders, we should all expect a tsunami of tax proposals. 

Taxes per se are a necessary inconvenience acknowledged by our founding fathers in the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8).  However, what taxes are used for is the issue we at the Nine-County Coalition constantly pick on!  If taxes were limited to “pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare” of any jurisdiction – federal, state, county, or city - there would be no need for this and other websites concerned about the perils of economic or land-use central planning.  Most of us would willingly pay for the solvency of our jurisdiction, protection of our private property, and basic government services such as the maintenance of courts. 

The Nine-County Coalition and others have expressed concern about Plan Bay Area 2040 and the plan’s clearly enunciated goals of focusing on largely government-funded transit-oriented development, forced allocation of housing including subsidized housing in all existing neighborhoods, and taxpayer funding to accomplish these objectives.  The last objective is the key to all others, and that objective is still at present in voters’ hands. 

However, taxes come in so many forms that they easily sneak up on payers.  A good website on this subject is California Tax Foundation (CalTax). The website’s Tax Watch provides a summary of the major taxes and fees introduced by California’s legislature.  Among the reports currently featured are California Tax Facts, an overview of the state’s tax structure; and Piecing Together California’s Parcel Taxes, which discusses the sheer volume and assortment of taxes on pieces of land.

One of the many interesting subjects discussed in California Tax Facts is Proposition 26, a state initiative constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2010.  Proposition 26 defines a tax as any source of revenue that does NOT fall into the following specific categories:

*  Benefit or Privilege:  Example is a zoning fee.
*  Government Service or Product:  Example is a vehicle registration fee.
*  Reasonable Regulation:  Example is an inspection fee.
*  Use of Government Property:  Example is an event space rental fee
*  Fine, Penalty, or Monetary Charge:  Example is a parking ticket.
*  Property Development:  Example is a developer fee.
*  Property Related:  Example is a street lighting assessment.

Proposition 26 says that whatever does not fall in any of the categories above is a tax.  Unlike implementation of a fee, implementation of a tax is limited by restrictions imposed by Proposition 13 (1978) and Proposition 218 (1996).
Keeping up with so much information just to protect our property, our pocketbooks, and our liberties seems unreasonable.  But eternal vigilance has always been the going price.