Walter was a retired cowboy on Social Security, a product of another century and simpler times. He and his wife were neighbors of Roberta’s parents when Atascadero had only one traffic light. They owned a simple home but fully paid for — a dream fulfilled. That dream was being imperiled by rapidly escalating home values and property taxes.
The year was 1978 and Proposition 13 was on the June ballot. Its passage assured Walter that he and his wife wouldn’t be forced out of their home, which they had no desire to sell. Prior to Proposition 13, property taxes were based upon speculative value, not actual value to a homeowner desiring only to live in peace. Walter kept his home until he and his wife passed on, thanks to voters fed up with skyrocketing property taxes. The sky didn’t fall and Proposition 13 has delivered a relatively stable rate of taxes since its passage.
The California legislature, however, continued to spend itself into oblivion, basing its rosy budget projections on a boom and bust economy dependent upon the highest income earners to pay for everything else. They promised everything to everyone and now the bill is due.
To make up for shortfalls last year, legislators raided local government coffers. Local business taxes, gas taxes and — particularly from Atascadero — $8 million in redevelopment money raised locally for local purposes, was seized by the state. That money could’ve been used to make improvements to our retail and commercial areas and to provide incentives to attract businesses to Atascadero. Now that money is being used by the legislature to fund their pet projects in other parts of the state.
Worse still, after the passage of Proposition 30 by voters, the Democrat legislative majority has been clamoring for new spending not related to funding schools as the proposition proponents promised. “Dollars to donuts,” we’ll be hearing demands for more tax increases within two years.
Local businesses continue to struggle under ever-increasing regulations imposed by regional agencies, all virtually unaccountable to local voters. Some mandates are national in origin, such as “Obamacare.” The Congressional Budget Office recently projected that 7 million Americans will lose their healthcare coverage due to “Obamacare.” Five-hundred part-time employees of Universal Studios who had limited healthcare policies were told last week that they were losing even that coverage as the new law prohibited their current health-insurance policies, so now they have nothing. Atascadero’s fast-food franchises are converting full-time positions to part-time and part-time employees are getting reduced hours or are being laid-off lest their employers incur the cost of expensive health insurance mandates.
Have you noticed the rapid increase in gas prices? Refineries held up gasoline production to reduce inventories in December to avoid year-end inventory taxes; now they’re tooling up for the boutique fuels California regulators demand. Expect prices to remain seasonally high and let’s hope for no unforeseen disruptions such as an Israeli-Iranian war disrupting oil supplies.
“Utopia” is expensive, but not to worry, surely there’s a billionaire we haven’t scared off yet to pay the bills.
Al Fonzi is a retired Army Lt. Colonel and career intelligence officer with more than 30 years of service. He is a self-described conservative and active in several political organizations. Fonzi first moved to Atascadero in 1972.
For the complete article see the 02-27-2013 issue.
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