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    News

    Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Ass'n "Taxpayers Report Card" For 2003 Gives "F" Grades To LB Assemblymembers Lowenthal & Oropeza & State Senator Karnette; We Post Responses


    (April 9, 2004) -- The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has released a 2003 "Report Card" on California's state legislators...and given "F"s to LB area legislators Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV), Jenny Oropeza (D., LB-Carson) and state Senator Betty Karnette (D, LB-PV-Downey).

    The grades rank the three LB area representatives in the bottom 9% of all Sacramento lawmakers in the eyes of the group, named for the late Howard Jarvis who led the drive for Proposition 13 and backed its progeny limiting tax and fee increases.

    In a statement accompanying its report card, the group said:

    HJTA has carefully evaluated the 2003 voting records of all California legislators and assigned grades based on their votes on 65 bills that would increase the burden on taxpayers. The results are alarming, if not surprising, with many more senators and assembly representatives receiving F than A.

    California already ranks first, or near first in the nation in taxes, according to some analysts, yet many lawmakers, those receiving Fs, have shown total contempt for taxpayers. Those receiving Ds and Cs have demonstrated a disregard for taxpayers that makes them untrustworthy. Those receiving Bs need to improve, but they have shown some respect for the concerns of taxpayers. Finally, the minority of lawmakers who received a mark of A have proved that they can be counted on to respect and protect the tax-paying public.

    LBReport.com invited responses from the three LB area lawmakers and posts them verbatim as emailed below:

    • Assemblywoman Oropeza: "I would encourage readers of LBReport.com to review the bills on which these ratings were based. I submit many, if not most, local residents support how I and most members of the Legislature voted. I support business and believe they are key to the quality of life we enjoy, but I stand by our efforts to protect our environment, as well as the poor, the aged and those among us who are least able to protect themselves."

    • Senator Karnette: "Every special interest group feels excluded when the state has to practice fiscal responsibility, so Iím not shocked that the Howard Jarvis Association hands out bad grades when the Legislature is forced to make tough fiscal decisions.

      "Their grade is unfortunate, though, when you consider that I authored the only pro-business, pro-economy tax cut last year (Senate Bill 808, Karnette, 2003, Bunker Fuel sales tax exemption).

      "Despite their grade, I look forward to working with the Howard Jarvis Association on maximizing targeted tax cuts that improve the stateís economy and tax revenues while the Legislature works to eliminate the budget deficit."

    • Assemblyman Lowenthal: "I have not seen the Howard Jarvis scorecard yet, however, I donít put much credence into legislative report cards. First of all, the organization compiling the report card has an agenda. They usually pick bills to either 'embarrass' or support a particular legislator, so they are highly subjective. Second, they tend to be statewide in scope and rarely take local issues into account such as all my work to reconcile issues between harbor business interests and quality of life concerns of the 54th Assembly District."

    In an opinion piece (excerpted below) accompanying its report card, HJTA president John Coupal wrote:

    [M]ost tax-related bills never reach the floor of either the Senate or the Assembly unless the authors have counted noses and are assured of victory. This means that in most cases we had to rely on the record of votes in committee. Lawmakers lost points when they voted for bills that would increase taxes, make it easier to increase taxes, threaten Proposition 13, or further tighten the bureaucrats' lock on the budget. Their grades went up when they voted for legislation that benefited taxpayers like creating a mechanism for closing down unneeded bureaucracies and increasing the homeowners' exemption. In all, 65 tax related bills that were considered in 2003, were used to develop a gauge of each politician's way of thinking about taxing and spending.

    The resulting "report card" was graded on a perfect bell curve, defined so that voting with the taxpayers less than 10 percent of the time resulted in a grad of "F" and those voting with taxpayers at least 90 percent of the time received an "A."

    The full HJTA report card can be viewed at: Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association 2003 Report Card Re CA Legislators.

    Asked by LBReport.com for a list of the bills on which the group based its grades, HJTA analyst Jennifer Abreu emailed LBReport.com a list below.

    It includes AB 998 authored by Assemblyman Lowenthal which (in the words of the Assembly legislative analysis) establishes a grant program to provide financial incentives to professional dry cleaners to use non-toxic alternatives to perchloroethylene (perc)...Perc, also known as PCE and tetrachloroethylene, is a synthetically produced organic compound used as a cleaning solvent. It has chemical and toxicological properties that make it a significant environmental and health hazard. Perc has been listed as a recognized carcinogen under Proposition 65 and requires warnings to consumers and the public."

    The list also includes AB 1766 authored by Assemblywoman Oropeza under the Davis administration that implemented part of the financing plan for deficit bonds authorized in ABx1 7.

    Ms. Abreu said that "for the purpose of formulating a comprehensive report card, we chose roughly sixty bills which had voting records that we thought were the most telling about California legislators and their stance in regard to protecting Proposition 13 and fighting for California taxpayers."

    HJTA provided the following list of bills on which it based its report card:

    Assembly Bills:

    4 (Chan)
    50 (Koretz)
    94 (Chu)
    126 (Campbell)
    136 (Kehoe)
    151 (Vargas)
    204 (Nation)
    216 (Chan)
    222 (Corbett)
    322 (Parra)
    346 (Longville)
    427 (Longville)
    461 (Longville)
    503 (Kehoe)
    556 (Strickland)
    574 (Yee)
    694 (Levine)
    737 (Longville)
    880 (Diaz)
    944 (Steinberg)
    947 (Jackson)
    992 (Ridley-Thomas)
    998 (Lowenthal)
    1065 (Longville)
    1245 (Laird)
    1412 (Wolk)
    1500 (Diaz/Pavley)
    1528 (Cohn)
    1546 (Simitian)
    1646 (Benoit)
    1690 (Leno)
    1766 (Oropeza)

    ABX1 4 (Wesson)

    Assembly Constitutional Amendments:

    4 (Simitian)
    7 (Dutra)
    9 ( Levine)
    10 (Harman)
    11 (Levine)
    14 (Steinberg)
    15 (Wiggins)

    Senate Bills:

    2 (Burton)
    9 (McClintock)
    17 (Escutia)
    80 (Oller)
    83 (Soto)
    100 (Dunn)
    108 (Romero)
    114 (Torlakson)
    314 (Murray)
    330 (Morrow)
    413 (Speier)
    511 (Figueroa)
    541 (Torlakson)
    548 (Burton)
    566 (Scott)
    676 (Ortiz)
    921 (Kuehl)
    981 (Soto)
    1049 (Committee on Budget & Fiscal Review)

    SBX1 5 (Romero)

    Senate Constitutional Amendments:

    2 (Torlakson)
    11 (Alarcon)

    Assemblyman Lowenthal, facing term limits, is currently running for Senator Karnette's Senate seat and Senator Karnette is seeking Lowenthal's Assembly seat in November 2004. Assemblywoman Oropeza is seeking reelection and was recently named to chair the Assembly's Transportation Committee after chairing the Assembly Budget Committee in 2003.

    In an opinion column discussing the group's report card, HJTA president Jon Coupal wrote:

    Some taxes, especially at the local level, are approved by voters. The taxes that are approved may be the result of a true perceived need or the result of a well-financed or deceptive campaign by unions or other special interest groups.

    The lion's share of our heavy tax burden is directly attributable to state government and our own California Legislature. In 1991 the Legislature approved the largest tax increase in the history of the state. While taxpayers were promised that most of these new taxes would be temporary, we are still paying many of them, including a 1.25 percent increase in the sales tax.

    More recently, the Legislature has imposed new taxes, often disguised as fees. But this is only a fraction of what they would do if taxpayers were not protected by Proposition 13's requirement that new state taxes be approved by two-thirds of the Legislature. Just last year over one hundred bills were introduced that if approved would have raised taxes nearly $65 billion ≠- a fifty percent increase in the tax burden.

    Where does such irresponsibility originate? What motivates apparently sane people to believe that there is a bottomless pot of money that they are free to dip into on a whim? Do they believe in Leprechauns?

    While it is easy to point fingers at a one legislator or another and say he or she votes against the interests of taxpayers, at the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers association we were determined to do the research so that we could base our evaluation of our 120 Sacramento representatives on a statistical analysis of their voting records.

    This proved to be challenging since most tax-related bills never reach the floor of either the Senate or the Assemble unless the authors have counted noses and are assured of victory. This means that in most cases we had to rely on the record of votes in committee.

    Lawmakers lost points when they voted for bills that would increase taxes, make it easier to increase taxes, threaten Proposition 13, or further tighten the bureaucrats' lock on the budget. Their grades went up when they voted for legislation that benefited taxpayers like creating a mechanism for closing down unneeded bureaucracies and increasing the homeowners' exemption. In all, 65 tax related bills that were considered in 2003, were used to develop a gauge of each politician's way of thinking about taxing and spending.

    The resulting "report card" was graded on a perfect bell curve, defined so that voting with the taxpayers less than 10 percent of the time resulted in a grad of "F" and those voting with taxpayers at least 90 percent of the time received an "A."

    The findings were disappointing if not surprising. The biggest block of legislators was comprised of complete failures with a definite tax-and-spend philosophy and no regard for California taxpayers. More than 44 percent received "F"s. Add in the 13 percent who received "D"s and we see that a solid 57 percent of the State Legislature voted against taxpayer interests most of the time.

    While approximately 34 percent of lawmakers received "A" grades, only 8 percent earned "B"s or "C"s. From this we can see why pro-taxers worked so hard for Proposition 56, which had it passed last month would have replaced the requirement of a two-thirds vote to approve new state taxes with an easily attainable 55 percent. The Report Card on the California State Legislature shows that at any given time if a tax increase proposal is run up the flagpole, at least 57 percent of the Legislature can be counted on to salute.

    The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association was the leading opponent of Prop 56, a measure on the March 2004 ballot that attempted to lower the number of legislators required under Prop 13 to pass a budget (and increase taxes) from 66.7% to 55%. Voters defeated Prop 56 in every CA County except San Francisco. In L.A. County, Prop 56 failed by 66%; in OC, it failed by 74%.


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