Saturday, April 19, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Whose tax dollars are they, anyway?

elias column sig

By
From page A8 | December 08, 2012 | Leave Comment

A key question has raged in California for more than a year, ever since Gov. Jerry Brown first proposed two of his key tactics in the ongoing battle against seemingly perpetual state budget deficits.

That question: Who do tax dollars really belong to? There are also these corollary questions: Are taxes collected by cities the exclusive property of those cities? Do dollars sitting in special state funds earmarked for particular uses belong to all the people, thus implying they could be used for anything state legislators think best?

These questions are in the forefront of debates over state finances today because of the storm over the summertime revelation that the state Parks Department was sitting on more than $30 million in a special off-road vehicle fund, plus another $20 million in its Parks and Recreation Fund even as park units were threatened with closure.

They are valid questions, with good arguments on many sides. Some special funds get their money from virtually all taxpayers and/or utility customers, while others are funded strictly by one type of user.

The Beverage Container Recycling Fund is an example of the latter. Only people who buy certain kinds of drinks pay into this fund. Purchase only milk, bottled wine and hard liquor and you won’t help fund reimbursements of bottle and can deposits, nor will you help pay for the education and outreach effort that has caused a remarkable 85 percent of all recyclable containers to be turned in. That was 17 billion containers out of an eligible 20 billion in 2010-11. At a nickel or dime per can or plastic bottle, reimbursements are supposed to use up almost $9 of every $10 paid into the fund.

Records at the state Controller’s Office showed at midsummer that the fund had an unreported, uncommitted balance of $113 million. Should that money be available for other state programs or should it simply sit in a bank account and draw interest?

That’s a key question now, when some other special accounts like the Energy Resources Surcharge Fund – all utility customers pay a little into this one each month – also have multimillion-dollar balances that are not spoken for.

Brown’s view and that of the majority of state lawmakers plainly is that excess money in these pots of tax or fee dollars should be open to uses other than what they were collected for, if only because it’s almost impossible to refund some of those dollars because there’s no way to track who paid into the funds. Beverage recycling money is a classic example of this.

Which brings the discussion to the two Brown tactics that started the discussion: His move to disband local redevelopment agencies, with the bulk of their funding going into state coffers, and his prison realignment effort, which is sending tens of thousands of supposedly low-risk convicts from prisons to county jails, where many have been paroled because of space problems and county budget shortfalls.

No, neither of these moves has led any city into bankruptcy, despite the claims of some that the demise of redevelopment agencies would lead to disaster. In fact, the main reason for city defaults has been the collapse of the housing market, which led to lower property taxes, lower sales taxes as homeowners stopped remodeling or making swimming pool and air conditioning purchases, while greatly diminishing virtually all other forms of city revenue.

Brown’s idea was that the increased property taxes paid on newly redeveloped property should not be used just to buy up more land for redevelopment, but rather that those tax dollars belong to everyone. So far, courts have upheld this concept by going along with the redevelopment cuts.

Cities, however, won’t stop bleating. Their advocates write op-ed pieces claiming lack of redevelopment money has caused most of the immediate troubles of Stockton, Compton, San Bernardino and other cities nearing bankruptcy. That, of course, ignores the reckless pension contracts agreed to by those cities and their public employee unions, plus myriad other forms of mismanagement. When housing activity was healthy, all that was papered over, and maybe it will be again someday. But not just yet.

Meanwhile, neither Brown nor any state lawmaker has yet paid any political price for what they did to redevelopment agencies, which means Brown may have tapped into a previously unknown public sense that all taxes and all state, city and county monies belong to all Californians.

As things are now going, only a voter initiative appears likely to reverse the trend of tapping both wealthy special funds and local tax dollars for uses the Legislature and the governor deem higher priorities than those for which they were originally collected.

Thomas Elias is a California author. Reach him at tdelias@aol.com.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Transplant recipients talk about their best gifts

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Solano unemployment inches downward

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1

 
Spering, Bertani spar over fighting crime

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 5 Comments | Gallery

 
Fairfield council candidates weigh in on crime

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Police release name of woman found dead in Fairfield canal

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Five homes featured on Symphony Home Tour

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

Congregation invites public to Easter music, message

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Jury acquits substitute teacher in child abuse case

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A4

Weather for April 19, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B13

 
.

US / World

California farmers to get more water

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Teen sentenced in Oakland toddler’s killing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

More Latino than white students admitted to UC

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
3 alleged gang members convicted of murder

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
From Clinton to Obama, many parallels

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
PG&E to be arraigned in fatal pipeline blast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Mom and son who died in San Francisco fire ID’d

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Easter on 4/20, pot holy day; pastors reach out

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Colorado deaths stoke worries about pot edibles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
NASA’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down as planned

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Atheist national conference aims at Mormon church

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
Some countries get Obama, but want his wife, too

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Man who avoided prison is overwhelmed by support

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Teen suspended for asking Miss America to prom

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

White House updating online privacy policy

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
SpaceX making Easter delivery of station supplies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Sudden movement raises alarm in Wyoming slide area

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
In Egypt, a corruption watchdog hit by backlash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Military scales down, modifies Guam buildup plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Captain of sunken SKorean ferry arrested

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

Avalanche sweeps down Everest, killing at least 12

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
57-nation OSCE plays key Ukraine monitoring role

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Ukraine crisis: The turning points

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Diplomacy doesn’t move insurgents in Ukraine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
.

Opinion

Here we go again in Sacramento

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

.

Entertainment

Prince reaches agreement with music label

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

 
‘The Boondocks’ back for final ‘offensive’ season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

A nutty finale for ‘Scandal,’ TV’s craziest show

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

 
Stratocaster still a favorite at 60

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

.

Sports

Big innings lift Mustangs over Indians

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Hertl has impressive playoff debut for Sharks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Warriors and Clippers take dislike to playoffs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Ross, Padres beat Cain and Giants 2-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

A’s come out swinging to beat Astros 11-3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Warriors to start O’Neal for Bogut vs. Clippers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Nadal ousted by Ferrer in Monte Carlo quarters

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
A’s lefty reliever Doolittle gets 5-year deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

’40-and-up club’: Ageless Hopkins after more belts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Jimenez shoots 65 to lead Greater Gwinnett field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Solano scores in ninth for 2-1 BVC baseball win over Yuba

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Choi leads rain-delayed RBC Heritage

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

NBA’s Silver wants age limit change, no rush on others

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
NBA playoffs looking more wide-open than expected

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Source: Grizzlies’ G Calathes suspended for 20 games

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Avalanche sweeps down Everest, killing at least 12

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Mets trade 1B Ike Davis to Pirates

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
TNT’s Sager to miss NBA playoffs due to leukemia

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Business

Judge says American can’t end retiree benefits yet

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
Mazda recalls 109,000 older SUVs for rust problem

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

5 features an Amazon phone might offer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
.

Obituaries

Sealwyn Shirley Brucefield Shepherd Malkiewicz

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
.

Home Seller 04/19/14

Summerwood features 8 new homes in Suisun

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR2

Real estate transactions for April 19, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR3

Average US 30-year mortgage rate falls to 4.27 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR3