Tag Archives: Utility Tax increase

NO on Measure J – No Cell Phone Tax!

17 Sep

It’s always good to listen to people who disagree with you.  If you know what they are thinking, you can oftentimes get them to listen to your point of view, and maybe change their minds.

Sometimes it’s a simple matter of correcting misinformation. For example, the promoters of the new cell phone tax, City of Chico Measure J, are telling people the measure will  lower their taxes. Of course this is not true, but if we don’t step out there and make that clear, people may believe it. We need to make sure people know – the tax is being expanded to forms of electronic communication, like cell phones and pagers, that were not legally taxed before.

Something our opponents are telling us here is  they know people feel overtaxed. They are trying to trick people into voting for this tax increase, they’re telling them it will lower their taxes.  We need to tell people the truth – their cell phone bill will go up!

We also need to remind them, the tax can be further expanded – this measure allows the Finance Director to add any new forms of electronic communication that may be introduced to the consumer, at any time in the future, without voter approval. And, by the way, the tax rate can be raised by vote of council, again, without voter approval.

Finally, we need to ” de-bunk the bunk”, to borrow from an old blog-mate (who, by the way, currently receives over $149,000 per year  in pension). Measure J proponents are using the same old tactic – they are holding “public safety” up like a baby and threatening to throw the baby out the window if they don’t get this tax increase. According to Ann Schwab’s argument in favor,  failure to pass this tax increase “will result in reduced police and fire services, road maintenance and park funds. “ She’s  threatening to throw all my babies out the window, I just can’t believe that woman, Good Gravy,  she’s a  mean one.

Of course we need a competent and adequate staff, public safety and otherwise. But there is nothing in the text of this measure that guarantees we’ll get that. The revenues from Measure J will go into the General Fund, from which they can be spent at the discretion of council, on anything from Spirit Flags to the unmet pension obligations left to us by the CalPERS disaster.

It is a simple thing to tear down this measure, because it’s a bad idea. It is a matter of speaking up and telling people what’s happening. Write those letters – I hope you will find the above points helpful, but I’m sure you have plenty to say for yourselves.

Ballot measures – today featuring state Proposition 30 and local Measure E

15 Sep

I thought I’d share this interesting link:

http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-measures/qualified-ballot-measures.htm

Look them over, some of them are tax increase measures.  There at the top you see Proposition 30 – that’s Jerry Browns’ pit bull disguised as a tea cup poodle. “Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Gee, they make it sound so harmless – “Temporary” – oooo! “Fund Education” – ahhhh!  That’s like saying,  “well he’s just a little ol’ alligatah, Honey!”

They write these titles knowing how many people actually read the text of a measure. Sure, some of those people don’t bother to read it because they ritually vote NO! on anything smelling like a tax increase – that’s not a bad strategy as far as I’m concerned.

But, it’s not my strategy. I know we need taxes to fund public needs. It’s not like I’m just Anti-Tax – my family is full of teachers, I went to public school. I’ve driven my car, rode my bike and hoofed it on public roads for over 50 years.  I like public utilities, which are largely subsidized with taxes, and I like having some sort of police and fire protection, even if I have to take the ticks with the hound. 

On the other hand, I also know, it’s stupid to throw money at budget problems. We certainly do have a budget problem in the state of California, but it’s not a revenue problem, it’s  a spending problem.  Year after year the governor and the legislature have screamed that we are in deficit, need to “cut back,” but they just keep approving more spending. For the craziest stuff, I don’t even want to go there. Mostly for the lifestyle they’ve managed to make out of it for themselves – why do we allow these public servants to live like demi-gods? Alot of us could live on their wardrobe and dry-cleaning allowances, their cell phone allowances, their car and gas allowances. We have “allowanced” these people until they are so far removed from our everyday reality –  I guess, we’ve made our own monster, and we deserve to be destroyed by this creature.

Well, not me. I’m going to fight. This “temporary” tax is another hike – add that onto the hike in the cost of housing, the cost of medical care, the cost of groceries and gas and everything else you need to live. Add that to the city’s utility tax hike and the state’s wood products tax and the proposed Chico art tax and a grocery bag tax – pending state legislation would allow retailers to charge the public for plastic grocery bags, currently illegal.  I’ll tell you what, it sure seems to me, the people of  California are being told to TAKE A HIKE!

First of all, “temporary” means, after the allotted time, the legislature can vote to extend it.  I don’t know if they need public approval for that. Like local Measure H, which would extend a “temporary fee” that was placed on our vehicle registration a few years back. Once you vote something like this in it’s like giving the vacuum salesman a foot in your door. 

And then there’s the WHY? of it. WHY? would we give the schools more money? Here in Chico, they just pad their behinds with the stuff. What does a school district the size of Chico need with all these $100,000 plus administrators, including Stuporintendent of Snooze, Kelly Staley, who makes well over $180,000 a year, plus benefits and pension paid by the taxpayers.

Furthermore, Chico Unified has foisted their own bond on the local ballot – how much money do they need down there? Are they making clothes out of it? Here’s the info on that:

http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln27/27_local_measures.html#a

Staley wants to issue $78 million in bonds, placing a $45 tax on your home for every $100,000 worth of value. Read Staley’s request here:

http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln27/measure_e_resolution.pdf

Staley only wants $78 mil. Jerry Brown is hoping to raise $6 billion annually. I can imagine Santa Claus, and maybe even the tooth fairy, but I can’t begin to imagine $6 billion.

He says his measure “bars use of funds for administrative costs, but provides local school governing boards discretion to decide, in open meetings and subject to annual audit, how funds are spent.” That is a loophole – everything after “but” .  Everybody who’s dealt with government types knows what the words “discretion” and “open meetings” mean – in other words, we listened to what the public said but we did what we wanted anyway. 

And there’s this line: “Guarantees funding for public safety services realigned from state to local governments.”   Let’s have a collective, “oh, sure!” on that one – which turnip truck does Governor Moonbeam think we fell off of? How many times have they just TAKEN money from local jurisdictions, saying, “make us give it back” ? And we’re supposed to fall for it? Fool me once, Shame on You! Fool me twice, well, I’ll probably buy it a third time too. But the fourth time, I’m not only not going to fall for it, I’m going to kick your ass for trying to pull it.

Oh, you know, I’m not advocating violence, oh geeshy sakes no! I’m asking everybody I know, everybody within blog-shot,  to bring in a LANDSLIDE against Prop 30 AND local Measure E, the school bond. We have to clean our financial house, and it’s going to be a lot of work. Lately, adding more money to the state of California engine is just like putting cheap gas in your Pinto.  Clunk-clunka-clunk-clunk-clunk!  Clunka-clunk!

 I read an article today, in which the author professed being in favor of Prop 30, and challenged opponents to come up with good alternatives to the “problem”. Of course, he thinks the “problem” is, teachers don’t get paid enough, and we don’t have enough money to hire adequate teachers. I feel the “problem” is, the school system is top-heavy with administrative salaries and drowning in benefits and pensions obligations that should be paid by the employees.  His answer is either raise taxes or watch the California schools fall further into the abyss. I say,  cut administration positions down to bare bones, and make Superintendent a publicly elected position. Then,  fire people, and rehire other qualified applicants at reasonable salaries. Finally, throw out the notion of “benefits packages” altogether – benefits packages are something you use to lure highly skilled candidates in an employee’s market. That is not how I’d describe the average employee of Chico Unified, and Chico is certainly not an “employee’s market,” with Chico State squeezing out Liberal Studies candidates like a sausage press.

 What the government isn’t admitting, is that these contracts come up for review every so many years – every year down at the school district –  and they have the alternative of NOT RENEWING. Instead, they hold the public out of the negotiations with BS about “collective bargaining rights” and renew even worse contracts than those expired. Why do we pay our public workers three, four, five times the median income, while also paying even the “employee share” of their benefits?

That has got to stop. If we really want to live within our means, we need candidates for public office who are willing to tackle the issues of salaries and benefits, not in some future “tiered” system, but NOW. When existing contracts come up for renegotiation, we need candidates who are not afraid to look unreasonable employees in the eye and tell them not to let the screen door hit them on the ass. We need council members who are not afraid to tell employees they need to pay MOST, if not ALL, of their own benefits. I’m sick of these cowards, people who are more interested in keeping their ass in the chair than working for the taxpayers. People who are afraid of $taff because they are too lazy or intimidated to do their own homework and depend on $taff to feed them like infants. 

Do your homework this election, tell your friends, get the word out – “change” is actually a wonderful word, we’re all allowed to use it. 

 

Ann Schwab offers to give us a half-cent decrease in exchange for a four-and-a-half cent INCREASE!

2 Sep

City council races are supposed to be “non-partisan” – tell that to Ann Schwab. But watch it, Bob Mulhullond might move in to impale you with those over-sized scissors he used at the Grand Opening of Democratic Headquarters on Mangrove Avenue.

You’ll recognize the building, I’m sure, by the “Yes on TAXES!” signs posted out front. The Democrats have got a wish list of tax increases, starting with Jerry Brown’s statewide sales tax increase, and the Chico Democrats are on the bandwagon.

I haven’t noticed any “Yes on Measure J” signs out front of the building yet. Measure J – that’s Ann Schwab’s cell phone tax. I call it that because she promoted it and wrote the “For” argument on the ballot pamphlet, so I assume it’s her little bastard. And what an ugly baby it is!   A  4.5 percent tax to your cell phones, as well as your pager, and forms of “electronic communication” that haven’t even been introduced to the public yet. As a matter of fact, as soon as the phone companies start charging you for your Skype fix, Schwab will tax that  too.

Here’s the text of measure J, as it will appear on the November ballot:

Shall an ordinance be adopted to amend the City’s Telephone User’s Tax in order to: 1) reduce the tax rate from 5% to 4.5%   2) modernize the definition of telephone communication services subject to the tax to include new technologies such as wireless and voice over internet services  3)apply the tax to all telephone communications services regardless of the type of technology used; and 4) reflect changes to federal and state law?

I have to take this thing apart and look at it – where is that smell coming from?

Well, here, isn’t this funny – it says, first of all, “reduce the tax rate from 5% to 4.5%” – that doesn’t make sense. See, currently, there is no  tax on your cell phone, so how could Schwab be reducing it? The city charter only allows for the taxing of electricity, natural gas, water, and land lines, at 5%. The rate will stay the same on your PG&E bill and Cal Water bill – 5 percent – but she’s offering to lower it to 4.5% on old school telephones  in order to get us to agree to allow her to tax our cell phones too.  

She’s crafty, that gal, and what balls of brass she has! She’s offering a half-cent decrease on the dollar for your landline in order to get a four-and-a-half-cent INCREASE on the dollar on your cell phone. Read that again, and then page me.

I just googled this “fact” – about 30 percent of U.S. households have dumped their land lines, as of February 2012. You can take that or leave it, or google it for yourself. I would say, that’s understated – only one of my friends has a landline, that I know of. I’m guessing a few more that I have never discussed it with. But alot of my friends, and all of my tenants, are going wireless, and loving it. Little did they know, silly rabbits, that the bunny bopper was heading for town.

I’d guess a lot of the existing landlines are for businesses, and that probably won’t change any time soon. I wonder how much a half-cent decrease would amount to for the average business? How would it stand up to the extra 4.5 cents on the dollar they would pay for their cell phones, pagers, and “voice over internet protocol”?

So much for “reduce the tax rate…”

Next we see how the city attorney uses the word “modernize” to mean, “tax something that has never been taxed before.”  Here’s where this measure enables $taff to extend this tax, at their discretion, to “ to include new technologies such as wireless and voice over internet services “.  As Mark Sorensen puts it, “to include all and any new forms of electronic communication, now or in the future…” 

I don’t know if you’ve been following this:

https://chicotaxpayers.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/hennessy-is-using-city-funds-like-walnut-shells-to-hide-and-move-money/

but I’ve got a problem with allowing a person who won’t give us a straight accounting of what she’s doing with our money any further discretion to take MORE of our money.

So much for “modernization.”

The next part of the measure seems harmless enough until you read Schwab’s “Argument For,”  which I posted here:

https://chicotaxpayers.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/ann-schwabs-argument-in-favor-of-measure-j-to-protect-against-the-risk-of-losing-illegally-collected-tax-revenues/

The measure says, “apply the tax to all telephone communications services regardless of the type of technology used”.    But Schwab injects something more into it – “ ensure that all users of communication services are treated the same,” insinuating that some of us are getting away with something.  She’s trying to pit the land line users against the cell phone users. Hopefully, that tack will turn around to bite her on the ass – I’m guessing, the majority of landline users are also cell phone users, and I think I covered that pretty thoroughly already. Why would you allow yourself to be hookwinked that way by a woman who runs her fiscal house like a betting parlor? 

And that knocks “let’s be fair – let’s screw everybody!” out of the ballpark.

Finally, she reminds us that this measure is the result of a court decision stating that many California cities, including Chico, have been taking a tax off your cell phone illegally. Our city charter, like those of cities up and down the state,  had adopted the standard language of the “telecommunications tax” over 20  years ago, before cell phones were widely available to the general public. The original ordinance, which still sits on the books Downtown, only allows for the taxation of land lines. But the city has been collecting the cell phone tax off of willing providers, like AT&T,  all these years. At the maximum rate allowed by city charter – five percent. 

In the Southern California town of Chula Vista, city $taff undertook a similar scam, described by one attorney as “a failed attempt to retroactively authorize UUTs” . The voters not only overturned their Measure H, but are currently undertaking a class action suit to demand return of the money, taken illegally by their city staff. Unbelievably, as of this time last year, the city of Chula Vista was still collecting the illegal tax, even after the voters overturned their “modernization” measure and mounted a lawsuit. The lawsuit is scheduled to be heard in January of 2013. 

Please tell your friends and neighbors about this taking. How many of us can afford to shell out more money for city staff and their outrageous salaries? Why are we paying the “employee share” of their benefits? Why are we paying one staffer over $85,000 a year plus benefits to foist a bag ban on our local grocery stores? Can we really afford to have Lori Barker, at over $200,000 a year, writing an unenforceable smoking ban? 

Where are the jobs? 

Please join me and the Chico Taxpayer’s Association in rejecting Measure J. 

Ann Schwab’s argument in favor of Measure J – “to protect against the risk of losing” illegally collected tax revenues

25 Aug

Here is the “Statement of Accuracy” signed by those arguing in favor of Measure J – Mayor Ann Schwab and councillors Holcombe, Gruendl, and Goloff. Jim Walker submitted a letter of consent.

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail with these documents attached – arguments FOR and AGAINST Measure J, the cell phone tax, submitted to the city clerk earlier this month.  None of them cut and pastable into my blog, so I’ve been hem-hawing around trying to figure out how to load them up. I hate to break this kind of news – I am not exactly a computer whiz kid.  Word Press is a wonderful forum, but there’s buttons I still haven’t figured out yet. 

So, I finally just took a picture of the above “Statement of Accuracy” sheet with my camera – you can see how that turned out. The “Argument in Favor” below had to be typed in from a window on the little “notepad” my kids gave me for Christmas.

The city clerk has said she can’t give me the cut and pastable versions cause she’s afraid I’ll “edit” them.  Well, I’ll assure you, I have typed this argument in very carefully, word for word, and this is what Ann Schwab has to say for herself. I will admit, I received this argument before the county clerk had assigned a letter to the measure, so I added the letter ‘J’.  Let’s discuss this over the next few weeks :

Argument in Favor of Measure J – Utility Users Tax

We recommend approval of Measure J to protect existing revenue to continue vital services for the residents of the City of Chico.

The City of chico is at risk of losing $900,000 each year if voters do not approve Measure J to modernize the language of it’s current Users Utility Tax (UUT) ordinance. This would represent a significant reduction in General Fund revenue. The primary purpose of amending the telephone users’ tax is to protect existing revenue for the General Fund. A loss of $900,000 a year would result in reduced police and fire services, road maintenance and park funds.

In recent years, there have been significant changes in both technology and billing practices. The use of wireless services and voice over internet protocol has become widespread, billing for local and long distance services  is frequently bundled, and long distance calls are not always billed based on time and distance, even for land lines.

To protect against the risk of losing tax revenues in the face of legal issues, approval of Measure J will modernize this existing tax to ensure that all users of communication services are treated the same, regardless of the type of technology they are using or billing practices employed by their providers.

This proposed amendment includes a slight rate reductionk, from 5% to 4.5%. This rate, if applied to the average cell phone bill of $50 per month, would equate to a monthly charge of $2.25 as opposed to the current charge of $2.50.

Vote yes for Measure J and protect existing police, fire, roads and parks in the City of Chico.

Thankyou City Council Candidate Andrew Coolidge for taking on Ann Schwab’s Phone Tax Plan

7 Aug

You may have seen the following bit on the news:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeE2xJfFiUM&feature=youtube_gdata

Andrew Coolidge, candidate for Chico City Council, has got the issue onto the news, good for him.   This is the kind of candidate I can support in November – a regular citizen who’s actually out there DOING SOMETHING! 

Coolidge points out that Ann Schwab is out of touch with the reality most of her constituents live – she thinks the average phone bill is only about 50 bucks.  No, Pollyanna Schwab, that’s about the lowest cell phone bill you can get – is she talking about pre-paid cards?  Those will also be taxed. My family gets the cheapest package available, and for the four of us it’s just about exactly $98 a month. And that’s the strip-down package. I know plenty of people who pay more, and Coolidge estimated high bills of $200 plus. I believe it. 

So, under Ann’s phone tax, my family will pay almost $4.50 more, a tax that goes into the General Fund, which can be used for ANYTHING, including the “employee share” of benefit and pension premiums.

That’s the other problem I had with the story. When Alan Marsden ran this story, he quoted Ann as saying the money would go to “public safety”. In the ballot argument she wrote in favor of raising your taxes, she says the money will go to public safety. Well, that’s all nice and everything, but that’s not what the measure says. The measure doesn’t promise anything of the sort. The measure only promises to place a 4 and a half cent tax on your cell phone. 

There’s alot that’s wrong with this phone tax, and I’ll be posting more information as the days go by.

And tonight, don’t forget, Toby Schindelbeck will be making his request for more disclosure from Finance Mis-Director Jennifer Hennessy. He will need support at the dais. This request is scheduled for the end of the meeting, under “Reports and Communications.” 

 

The Party’s Over

5 Aug

As the headlines declare a new bankruptcy in another California town every few weeks, we must wonder just how close Chico is coming to the brink. But how would we know – we are held off by the forehead by the same $taff that profits from our not knowing. And we let ourselves be held off – for seven years now, City Finance Mis-Director Jennifer Hennessy has point-blank refused to perform aspects of her job, the most basic functions of her position, in fact – reporting to us, the taxpayers, on the financial state of our city. And we’ve let her get away with it, in fact, I think we’ve been hoping all along she wouldn’t bother us with the petty details of running our town.

I’ve known a lot of small business owners. I’ve seen some have great success, and others I’ve watched ride down the road to perdition – some of them wearing a “Perdition or Bust!” t-shirt, in fact. I had a friend who had long dreamed of owning her own restaurant. She’d waited tables for years, and then become an accountant, running the office for a large statewide business for many years before retiring to realize her dream. With a partner she’d only known a couple of years, she bought a long functioning restaurant-bar, with the intentions of taking up the strengths of the old business, and ferreting out the weaknesses.

Unfortunately she let herself be distracted with one aspect of the business – cleanliness. Yes, that’s important. But, instead of supervising, you would often find her climbing up into the grease trap or wading into the bathrooms with mop and bucket, declaring that nobody could get the place clean enough for her. In the meantime, her partner, who’d long dreamed of owning a bar, was happily handing out all the booze to his friends. And worse – he was  cashing their bad checks out of the restaurant cash register, and then letting it go when they told him they didn’t have the money.  Apparently his only dream for retirement had been to be the most popular man in town.

So, my friend’s business flopped after a year, no matter her business sense. She didn’t have very good sense in who she trusted with her money, and then she didn’t pay attention,  is what happened.

Here in Chico, we find ourselves in the same situation. We’re too busy to oversee our own public  finances, we say, too busy with the “real world.” Well, throw some coffee in your face and wake up – the world of city finance is about to  collide with your “real” world. Your local  taxes are about to go up, up, up. Starting this November with the Utility Tax increase and a school bond, and picking up speed in 2013 with a proposal to raise sales tax in Chico, as well as a proposed “booze” tax. This in addition to what’s going on at the state and federal levels, and you’re about to feel a kick in the pants.

The liberals on city council and their toadies on $taff want the phone tax increase to pay for their malfeasance. Right now they are accused of mis-spending some $11 million in RDA money, accused of misappropriating millions to pay their own salaries, benefits and pensions, and so far, they don’t have one shred of proof to the contrary. $taffer Shawn Tillman just keeps waving his hands madly and denying it, but he so far hasn’t come up with any paper trail as to where that money actually went. You know, like you’d have to pony up in a New York minute if the IRS was banging down your door.

That in addition to the roughly $43 million yearly budget – over 80 percent going to the same salaries and employee-related expenses like health benefits and pensions they are accused of using that $11 mil in RDA dough to pay. We pay not only the employer share on those costs but the employee share as well. Excuse me if I shake my head there  – I don’t believe they have the nerve to call it the “employee share”. The “employee share” is, they get to walk off with all the money and we get stuck holding the tab. Similar to my friend’s partner emptying out the cash register taking his friends’ bad checks.

I would say that people who put up with this kind of ridiculous, blatant malfeasance on the part of their elected and hired officials certainly deserve whatever they get, except that those of us who have been paying attention just get swept right along too. We’re already living with pothole studded streets, bad water, leaky sewers, Superfund clean-up sites on public land, mis-managed public safety agencies, almost 4,000 acres of mismanaged park, and a $taff that tells us if we want any of these issues addressed we have to form a non-profit and come up with the money ourselves.

My good Lord! How long are we going to take this shit?

Toby Schindelbeck, for one, has had enough. He’s arranged for a discussion of Jennifer Hennessy’s reporting requirements for this Tuesday night’s council meeting, at the end of the meeting, and it would be nice to have some speakers get up and support his request. It’s a simple matter of Hennessy disclosing our state of affairs – in other words, how much money we got, how much we’re planning to spend over the next 30 days, on what, and how much we have coming in. Every month. Just like you should balance your family checkbook every month (oh yeah, bust a snicker there!)

I will not assume everybody does this in their own house, because look at what’s going on all around us folks. Another house in my neighborhood was just foreclosed a month ago, and sold for less than half what was owed on it.  I know, a lot of people are in trouble of their own making. That means it’s time for some of us to hunker down and hold that line. We have to keep telling the City of Chico that  the party is over.

Yes there will be a mess to clean up.

Turn that S*** UP!

2 Jul

We had a lively discussion down at the library yesterday about how we are going to fight the phone tax increase in November. 

 The key here is to inform the public. $taff has already done their best to make this measure confusing and deceptive, actually writing into the measure that it will lower taxes. They mean, they are lowering the rate half a cent, but of course, this half-cent will be an ice cube in hell when they apply the tax to all the new stuff this measure allows – starting with cell phones, texting, paging,  and adding whatever new technology comes along.  All the voter needs to know is, this measure will  raise his/her taxes, noticeably.  

Even people on welfare will pay  this tax, even though they qualify for the rate-assistance plans offered by the phone companies – utility tax is based on the total bill, before the adjustment for the rate assistance. And, this tax includes those prepaid phone cards. 

The hardest hit will be commercial customers. A friend of mine who owns a little manufacturing business in town tells me the city of Chico thinks all business owners are “rich sugar daddies”. 

My friend always tells me, that while I am in these meetings Downtown, he is in Oroville or Redding or Modesto or some other town, dealing with his business. He says these towns have better, more workable $taff. He is among the business owners who have used the word “hostile” to describe Dave Burkland, and the city business climate in general.  

We have to get the word out to people like my friend that NOW IS THE TIME to get involved. I like that  band, Rage Against the Machine – they say, “it has to start somewhere, it has to start sometime. What better place than here, what better time than NOW!”  

We’re fighting the city, which will use public money to fund this tax increase initiative. For example, they have already used $taff time to research and write the measure, and now council members and $taff will create the “for” argument to be placed on the ballot. Our city attorney makes over $190,000 a year in salary alone – Mark Sorensen figured the cost of an hour of her time, but I forget the figure. More than most people make in a day, is all I remember.

The city will turn over their arguments in favor in August – at that point we can take this dog and pony show on the road. Until then, let’s keep working.  Thanks all! 

Chico Taxpayer’s Meeting Sunday, 11:30, Chico library. And don’t forget – Friday’s the last day to get your Utility Tax rebate.

25 Jun

Fourth of July is coming up, next Wednesday! I hope to see some of you in the conga line over to Hamilton City to pick up your Independence Day paraphernalia – don’t forget to hit El Patio for some chips and salsa.

The Fourth is my favorite holiday, and I like to celebrate. This Sunday I will be over at the library at 11:30 am for a meeting of the Chico Taxpayers Association. I’d like to compare notes about the November ballot sales tax hike initiative.  Jerry Brown’s original proposal has been toned down and merged with the so-called “Millionaire’s Tax.”  This hybrid would raise California’s sales tax from 7.25% to 7.5%,  while also raising income tax rates on individuals earning over $250,000 –  creating three new high-income tax brackets for taxpayers with taxable incomes exceeding $250,000, $300,000, and $500,000. I think the rhetoric in this campaign will be interesting. 

We’ll also compare any notes we have on the telephone tax, but we probably won’t have much to chew on  until the proponents – led by Mayor Ann Schwab – hand over their ballot arguments. 

REMEMBER! This Friday will be your last opportunity to get your Utility Tax rebate for 2012, those of you who qualify might want to hustle on down there. I heard from Dave, who said he went in and got his exemption – GO DAVE! I think anybody who has qualified two or more years in a row should be eligible for an exemption, to be renewed with documentation every three to five years, like the low-income rate assistance programs offered by PG&E, Cal Water and the phone companies. But, if wishes were horses, we’d all be hip-deep in horse crap, wouldn’t we? 

I realize, if you work 8 – 5 you can’t get your rebate in person. But, I’d also say, if you have more than two people in your household, you will probably find it’s worth the trouble to copy your bills – especially PG&E – and mail them in. You’d only need the first page, and you can do two-sided copies. It shouldn’t take more than two stamps to mail the whole mess. Remember to blot out your SSN’s on the copy of the first page of your tax return. 

And remember, it’s not about the money, it’s about the message.

Chula Vistans still suing their city leaders over illegal phone tax takings

14 Jun

Thanks Casey Aplanalp for keeping the cell phone tax in the news with letters to the ER – he reminds us, the city has been “siphoning off an additional $900,000 every year from taxes not levied, mainly from mobile devices, illegally.”

They got caught, so now this “phone tax” proposition has been written to legalize this plunder and include what they already take, and then some.”

Yes, this is the city of Chico’s motive behind the cell phone tax that will appear on November’s ballot – like a child, caught with her hand in the cookie jar, Ann Schwab immediately asks to change the rules.

A similar proposition was brought before the citizens of Chula Vista California,  seeking to extend their UUT to include “Skype, prepaid cellphones, teleconferencing apps for tablets 
and smartphones…” according to attorneys for the city.    The voters not only resoundingly defeated the measure, but turned around to sue the city for the money that had been taken illegally. Unfortunately, that suit, filed in 2010, will not be heard in court until January 2013.  Here’s a link to the latest story I could find on that, from March. I will follow this and keep you posted.

http://www.cglaw.com/viewdoc599.html

Chula Vistans beat the phone tax – now they’re suing to get back the money their city collected illegally!

16 May

Last night Ann Schwab, Mary Goloff, Andy Holcombe and Jim Walker moved forward with a resolution to tax “all forms of electronic communication imaginable, now or in the future…”

Lori Barker, who plays an attorney on TV,  defended her resolution, saying “it is impossible to include an exhaustive list of taxable services because we might leave something out…” Then they wouldn’t be able to tax that service too! So, she opted to leave an open-ended “description” that  any future Finance Director can add to without any input from the taxpayers.

Then she cited a word limit in the law – she is only allowed to use 77 words, and she was up to 75. Well, two more words would have fit – the words “texting” and “paging” – two services that will be taxed under this resolution but that Barker just couldn’t shoehorn in there! 

I think this dawg should be easy to put down – why would people vote to tax themselves when they don’t even know what they will be taxed on or how much they will pay? Barker wouldn’t answer that question either – she keeps insisting that this turkey will be “revenue neutral.” What? She’s adding cell phones that have never been taxed before, and she’s trying to tell us, the city won’t be making any extra money and we won’t be paying any more? 

This whole campaign is built on LIES.  We can and will defeat this tax.

This scenario has already played out in the little town of Chula Vista. I spent a Christmas in Chula Vista, when my dad was working on the freeway in San Diego. It was beautiful, 70 – 80 degrees.  We stayed in a motel with my dad’s coworkers and their families, and for Christmas dinner,  one of the moms made tamales in the motel kitchenette – what a scream, in that hot little kitchen!  I have never forgotten Chula Vista, and I never will. They are the town that stood up to the Utility Tax, and won.

In 2010, the city of Chula Vista put a similar proposition before their voters – making all the same lame threats about public safety, etc. The voters of Chula Vista not only put that resolution soundly in the toilet, there is currently an effort among Chula Vistans to SUE THE CITY! 

From the San Diego Metro Daily Business Report, Feb. 23, 2012:

Trial Date Set for Utility Tax Issue in Chula Vista

A trial date has been set for a class action suit seeking millions of dollars in restitution for allegedly illegal utility taxes levied by the city of Chula Vista on cell phone users within its boundaries. This follows a ruling by Superior Court Judge Richard Strauss dismissing a challenge brought by the city. The lawsuit stems from a now outdated tax — levied on users of telephones, electricity and other utilities — that was introduced in 1970 and generates more than $9 million in revenue for the city each year. An attempt by the city to amend the law with Proposition H in 2010 was defeated by voters. According to Thomas Penfield, a partner with San Diego-based Casey Gerry and co-lead counsel, the city of Chula Vista recently filed a legal objection to the suit.  “The city cited its local ordinance which said you cannot file a class action for a tax refund,” said Penfield. Penfield and co-counsel James Capretz of Orange County-based Capretz & Associates argued that municipalities are not permitted to enact their own patchwork means of claiming tax refunds. “The judge agreed with our argument and ruled in our favor – stating that state procedure overrules the local ordinance,” Penfield said. The case is now set to go to trial Jan. 18, 2013.

We’ve got some work ahead of us, but we must follow Chula Vista’s example and fight this tax.