Tax Wars

by Lou Binninger


                As Yuba County residents wait for a Judge Stephen Berrier decision on the legality of the Measure K sales tax measure, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and Californians are benefitting from rulings elsewhere supporting Propositions 13 (1978) and 218 (1996) requiring a 2/3s vote of the populace for new taxes.


            Meanwhile voters in El Dorado County, east of Sacramento, rejected a parcel tax to benefit the fire district in a special election. The effort to add $94 per parcel a year needed a 2/3s vote but received only 38% approval. The money would have added a third firefighter on four of six engines.


            The El Dorado Taxpayers Association requested three considerations to endorse the measure but the campaign consultant hired with tax dollars recommended against any concessions. The association wanted to make sure the measure would be fairly portrayed and would protect taxpayers.


            First, the citizens requested not to have a special election but to place the measure on the March 2020 primary ballot to get more voter input, be less expensive and refine the measure. Second, the people wanted a sunset date on the measure to require reauthorization and accountability to the voters as to how the money had been spent. And third, taxpayers requested an independent oversight committee with defined responsibilities.


            The taxpayers association was supportive of fire fighters but mentioned that in November 2018 Sacramento voters passed a sales tax increase guaranteed to fund community services. However, less than six months later the city manager, with support of employee unions, proposed diverting the money to fund pensions. With this in mind the El Dorado association therefore opposed Measure B.


            Maybe some voters got a look at El Dorado firefighter salaries. In 2018, the fire chief earned $282,565; two division chiefs received 228,920 and 221,040; a fire captain $209,260; a firefighter/paramedic $209,228; seven made more than $200,000. Twenty-five employees made more than $150,000. Fifty-three were paid over $100,000 a year.

            At one time property taxes paid for public safety. What has changed? Certainly salaries if you ask retired public safety employees that started their careers in the 80’s. Salaries were much lower then and paid for with local taxes.

            Now, cities, counties and districts are dreaming up new taxes and fees to get their $100,000 to $500,000 annual salaries depending on where they work in the “Golden State.” Salaries are so exorbitant that smaller, rural jurisdictions cannot keep their employees due to the lure of big money elsewhere.


            In the private sector salaries have a governor on them called the bottom line. If the product or service does not produce significant revenue and profit the salaries are changed by the market. Businesses either adjust or close the doors. Employees then go elsewhere and agree to another salary or they don’t work.


In government, now controlled by employee unions, it is an incestuous affair with politicians and unions servicing one another. The citizens that pay the salaries have no say in any salary and pension agreements. It is corrupt particularly when government leaders violate the free speech rights of voters by using tax funds to promote new tax measures. It has become an entitlement system.


Marysville, CA is beginning to charge for 911 responses even after raising an additional 1% sales tax and millions more for public safety. However, the amounts the city council is charging for a response is a mystery. It would be helpful to know what it will cost if 911 is called.


The opponents of Marysville’s sales tax increase were correct. The new revenue went for pensions, health costs and increased salaries. Public safety was the candy to get the vote. Once money enters the general fund it is fungible and disappears.


(Get Lou’s podcast at “No Hostages Radio” and his articles at

You have to log in or create an account and log in to post comments. Click here to login or register