Concord City Council votes to extend Measure Q sales tax

Last night, the Concord City Council approved placing the City of Concord Essential Services Measure, also known as the Measure Q Continuation Measure, on the Nov. 4, 2014 ballot to protect and maintain local city services.

Concord City Council

Measure Q was adopted by Concord voters in 2010 to protect and maintain vital services. Funding from Measure Q has helped the City stay solvent, maintain services and begin rebuilding its urgent reserve funds during one of the worst economic times of our day. Measure Q is scheduled to expire soon.

If enacted, the Measure Q Continuation Measure could generate funds to maintain city services that residents have identified as important, including 9-1-1 emergency response, neighborhood police patrols, gang prevention programs, street and pothole repair efforts, and youth and senior programs.

valerie_barone_concord_unfunded_liabilities“Sacramento has taken more than $78 million from the City of Concord over the past 20 years. The slow economic recovery has forced the City to cut its workforce by 25 percent, defer road maintenance, reduce programs and outsource services,” said City Manager Valerie Barone. “Our City needs locally-controlled funds for local projects and services, with money that can’t be taken by the State.”

As with Measure Q, a Continuation Measure will require independent citizen oversight, mandatory financial audits, and yearly reports to the community to ensure the funds are spent as promised. Additionally, there would be no increase in the sales tax rate residents currently pay.

For more information, visit www.ci.concord.ca.us/fiscalhealth.

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Like a zombie, County sales tax is dead…for now

The good news:  County Supervisors have decided against placing a countywide sales tax on the November 2014 ballot, due to lack of public support. (See: Powerpoint_Presentation_Poll_on_Sales_Tax (1) )

The bad news:  Supervisors continue to seek state legislation to allow Contra Costa to adopt a countywide half-cent sales tax in excess of the state maximum tax rate.

The takeaway:  Will Rogers said, “The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.”

The same might be said for our county supervisors. Given Contra Costa’s spending habits, a countywide sales tax proposal on a future ballot may be inevitable.

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Supervisors float new countywide sales tax for public safety, emergency, health services

Below see the Board Order from the Contra Costa County Supervisors that authorizes up to $45,000 for polling to determine voter preferences for a new countywide sales tax that would support public safety, emergency response, healthcare services, and other critical needs throughout the County.

Citing decreased property tax revenues caused by the real estate collapse during the Great Recession, the County says it has had to reduce funding to public safety, fire, and emergency medical services while demand for services remained the same or grew. The County claims that, despite a robust economic recovery touted by California Governor Brown and U.S. President Obama, real estate tax revenues have not yet returned enough funding to bring back services to a “needed level.”

The order also authorizes the County to work with its legislative representatives to smooth the way for the County to place a countywide sales tax measure on the ballot.

The proposed countywide sales tax comes on the heels of voters rejecting Measure C in West County to keep Doctor’s Hospital (Doctor’s Medical Center aka DMC) open. Hospital officials said they would vote to close the hospital if the tax did not pass. Providing 60 percent of emergency medical care in West County, the loss of DMC will severely impact emergency and health care services in West County and place enormous pressure on Kaiser Hospital in Richmond.

Additionally the proposed tax, if passed, would provide stop-gap fiat funding for ConFire, which has been struggling to make its numbers and service model work with insolvency closer than the horizon.

The Supervisors justify the proposed new countywide sales tax because voters in Santa Clara (2012) and San Mateo (2012) Counties have approved one-half-cent sales tax for similar either health, fire, or emergency services. They cite Alameda County that has had a tax dedicated to health services since 2004.

Increased tax revenues from such a countywide sales tax would go toward law enforcement and prosecution, fire and emergency medical services, and healthcare.

Contra Costa Board Order to Investigate New Sales Tax 2014

Contra Costa Board Order to Investigate New Sales Tax 2014

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Supervisors plot new sales tax for Contra Costa taxpayers

“Just when you thought it was safe to swim in the water” the jaws of “progressive” politicians want to swallow another chunk of their constituent’s check books to impose a new health care tax.

Fresh off the defeat on the Measure Bond Measure C which would have burdened Richmond property owners with a new parcel tax to fund construction of a new hospital, 1st District Supervisor John Gioia in a memo posted on his web site dated May 22nd stated:

supervisor-gioia“I appreciate the efforts of the community and the hospital’s employees to keep the hospital open. I look forward to working with the community to pass a countywide sales tax measure to bring badly needed new revenue to support Doctor’s Hospital and other vital programs in our County.”

Doctors Hospital, with its clientele primarily of low income and uninsured people has been struggling since it filed for bankruptcy in 2006.   Since then the County and The West Contra Costa Healthcare District has been able to bring in some 70 million dollars from different funding sources to cut Doctors Hospital losses from 36 million to 18 million per year.

In addition voters in Richmond passed a parcel tax in 2011 to raise 5 million dollars per year.  Apparently, this wasn’t enough as Measure C would have imposed 4 times more expenditures for property owners that  already have the highest levels of underwater mortgages in the Bay Area.

In reviewing this failed Richmond measure, it is interesting to note who funded it. The three largest contributors to the “Yes on C” campaign were the Pomo Casino Indians, Kaiser Hospital, and various labor unions. This group which outspent their opponents by at least 6 to 1 would seem to have some hidden agendas, to wit:

  • The Pomo group hoped to demolish DMC and construct a new Casino on the site. These tribes, most of whom already receive free government health care—until Obamacare cuts them off, would hardly concern themselves with the welfare of the locals.
  • Kaiser Permanente supported Measure C because if Doctor’s Hospital closes, they will receive the brunt of non or low revenue generating clients on government assistance especially impacting its crowded emergency room services in Richmond.
  • Unions naturally supported Measure C as their members would benefit from the construction of a new Hospital, keeping existing jobs, plus a possible bonus project should the Indian Casino ever be built.

One question that was never answered by Measure C supporters was why was not a less costly retrofit of the old hospital considered rather than building a new facility that would have cost approximately 4 times that amount?

Union files complaint over closure of Doctors HospitalRealizing that they have “gone to well” to many times, Supervisor Gioia has decided to ask Contra Costa voters to ante up higher sales tax for propping up Doctor’s and other hospitals that depend on limited revenue from State and Federal programs for those unable to pay for medical services.  Added to his proposed sales tax increase  are a few public safety measure crumbs thrown in to gain support from voters from other parts of the County.

In his mind Alameda County has a dedicated sales tax for this purpose so naturally Gioia thinks Contra Costa should follow suit.

Before the measure could be put before voters it would have to gain approval from the County Board of Supervisors at their June 3rd meeting.  If there is sufficient  interest  it is believed  they would commission a poll to see if there is widespread support for such a proposal

Another problem to be overcome is that several cities in Contra Costa are already at the maximum sales tax rate that can be charged. For this to be increased, the State Legislature would have to intervene. Thinking ahead Supervisor Gioia has enlisted the assistance of progressive Assemblywomen Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) to sponsor a bill that would raise the sales tax cap throughout the entire county.

The only thing that Gioia has his buddies have forgotten are the voters who reside outside the city limits of Richmond. One reason these folks carry such high sales tax loads is that they have had to raise money locally to replace revenue taken away by the State from redevelopment and to balance their budget deficits going back to 2008.

Is it possible that communities who struggle to fix pot holes and pay for basic infrastructure needs don’t want to bail out another failing government healthcare program?

Also to be considered is that with the Affordable Care Act being less than affordable for the wealthy and middle class, why would these people want to take on another burden though increasing their already high sales tax rates?   Many of these individuals are already complaining that their higher medical premiums are subsidizing the poor and uninsured. If  the majority of this group does not support Obama Care, what might they think of this one?  The answer is a resounding “no”!

In all likelihood John Gioia’s proposal will not gain too much traction in gaining support throughout the county. There are too many “grass roots” interests that would bury his sales tax increase in November. One wonders if these ultra liberal politicians possibly know how out of touch they are with their constituents?

asseblymember nancy skinnerOn one hand they see how progressives such as Mark DeSaulnier, Susan Bonilla, Loni Hancock, and Nancy Skinner get elected with virtually no opposition. This feeling of invincibility is further augmented by the fact that there are no Republicans holding any State offices or seats in the Legislature from the Bay Area.

While these facts tend to support the notion that liberal democrats are basically omnipotent, the natives in the cities are becoming increasingly restless by the arrogance  and non-accountability in State Government of wasting valuable resources at the expense of local communities.

Perhaps a revolt on the part of citizens who oppose the jaws of government from imposing any more new health care taxes will be a wake-up call for progressive political leaders?  They may also learn this November that it may be necessary to start governing more from the middle or risk losing many of their followers.

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Low taxes in Texas v the California tax trap

Deep in the heart of Texas is something that just about any American can admire: there are low taxes in Texas.

To some people, Texas may be a weird place, but not when it comes to money.

low taxes in texas v california tax trapAnybody living in California today faces the Golden State’s tax trap. California has the nation’s highest sales tax, the highest gasoline tax, and the highest top bracket for the personal income tax: 13.3 percent.

California also has the nation’s the seventh highest corporate income tax. The California State Legislature is the highest paid in the nation.

Now take a look at the low taxes in Texas.

Texas has no state income tax. In California, a person earning over $500,000 a year pays a state income tax of 12.3 percent. If a Californian’s income is over $1 million, the tax rate jumps to 13.3 percent.

The gasoline tax in Texas is 38.4 cents a gallon. This figure includes the 18.4 cents a gallon charged by the federal government. By contrast, California’s gasoline tax is 71.9 cents per gallon (again, including the federal tax of 18.4 cents a gallon).

Texas has a sales tax of 6.25 percent. The comparable number for California is 7.5 percent. However, local jurisdictions in California can add substantial amounts to the sales tax. In Concord, for example, the sales tax is 9.0 percent.

In terms of corporate taxes, low taxes in Texas is serious, where charges are between 0.5 percent and 1.0 percent if a business has annual revenue exceeding $1 million. In California, look out: the corporate income-tax rate is 8.84 percent!

These tax numbers come from the Federation of Tax Administrators.

So which is it: low taxes in Texas or the California tax trap? California has nice beaches, great scenic wonders (like Yosemite), and a pleasant climate. But when it comes to money, the Lone Star States wins big.

And remember, April 15 is only days away.

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Scotch and Soda for Governor Jerry Brown

“Scotch and soda, mud in your eye. Baby, do I feel high, oh, me, oh, my, do I feel high.” –“Scotch and Soda,” by The Kingston Trio (1958). The Kingston Trio should become the Kingston Quartet — with California Gov. Jerry Brown as the fourth member. On Wednesday, September 25, California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed legislation giving California the nation’s highest minimum wage: $10 per hour. The wage goes into effect on January 1, 2016. The number of jobs lost could be — well — high. Continue reading “Scotch and Soda for Governor Jerry Brown”

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