Picture yourself on Election Day at your local polling place and looking over a lengthy ballot. Or, try to recall when you were at home reviewing your mail-in ballot. In choosing your elected officials on the ballots, it is pretty straight-forward: You vote for the candidate that best matches your interests and values.
But what about tax levies and bond measures proposed by local governments and school districts? There are so many factors to consider. How will the new funds help your community or school? How long will it take for bonds to be paid off? Most importantly, what will be the actual financial impact on you and your family?
Current law requires that a “tax rate statement” be mailed out to all voters, which includes the best estimate of the highest tax rate for voters, as well as the best estimate of total debt service. While this information can be helpful, it is often insufficient in aiding voters to estimate how much their property taxes might increase.
This is why Assembly Bill 1194 (by this column’s co-author, Matt Dababneh, D-Woodland Hills) is necessary to alleviate this uncertainty and increase transparency for voters regarding the effects that local bond measures may have on property taxes. By providing information upfront, such as the best estimate of the average annual tax rate and the last year when the bond is expected to be paid, voters will have the ability to better understand the bond measures’ impact on their own personal finances.
AB1194 was approved by the state Assembly with strong, bipartisan support. It is supported by taxpayer advocacy organizations and by the very people in local government who are most affected if this bill should pass: the California Association of County Treasurers and Tax Collectors.
However, AB1194 faces more hurdles in the state Senate and has attracted some opposition. One organization fears the additional information provided to voters through the legislation “could have a chilling effect on the passage of local bond measures.”
This opposition should concern all taxpayers, as well as transparency advocates. How can providing more information about the average annual tax rates be misleading or even “chilling”? Are opponents afraid that more transparency might give voters pause and cause them to take a closer look at the consequences of the bond measure’s passage rather than blindly voting “yes” down the ballot?
Taxpayers should ask themselves if they could benefit from more clarity on these bond measures. If the answer is yes, then we need your support to ensure AB1194 wins approval in the state Senate and moves to the governor’s desk. You can help by contacting your state senator over the course of this summer to urge their support on AB1194 for better voter transparency.
Jon Coupal is the president of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Matt Dababneh is the California Assemblymember for the 45th Assembly District.
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