Every year, school board members from across California meet for a three-day conference hosted by the California School Boards Association. The event serves as a training of sorts for new members, and as an opportunity for school board members to network and attend seminars and workshops. As a newly elected school board member, I attended this conference for the first time last month.
I was eager to receive my school board "training," but after about two hours in attendance, my excitement quickly turned into disbelief as nearly every panelist presented information on how to raise taxes during lean economic times. As a matter of fact, the conference featured five different sessions on how to raise taxes.
Considering California's volatile state and slow economic recovery I was shocked to see there wasn't one workshop on how to save parents money, or any workshop that mirrors what millions of Californians are doing right now in response to these hard times: doing a little more with a little bit less.
The conference hosted by the California School Boards Association felt more like brainwashing. Before I was elected, I promised my constituents I would keep an open mind and duly consider everything set before me. I could not see that same willingness to appreciate a different perspective at this conference. All I could see was an insatiable desire to raise taxes.
Californians, especially college students, deserve a simple guarantee that they won't be taxed again after showing their commitment to funding education. As a school board member, I'm glad to see voters care about funding strong public schools, and that makes my job as a board member much easier. However, with these funds comes a tremendous responsibility to spend wisely and govern properly.
Californians just approved an increase in the state sales tax, personal income taxes, and eliminated tax exemptions for certain businesses. Federal taxes have also increased due to Congress' fiscal-cliff agreement; the capital gains tax, estate tax, dividend and payroll taxes are also seeing a stiff increase. Most of us have already noticed that our paycheck is smaller than it was last month.
Local governments have also raised taxes. Last election, 113 school bond measures passed in California out of 140 proposed bonds. A casual observer might expect elected officials to ease up momentarily on their drive for ever-higher taxes. Unfortunately, it appears that many of our politicians are still laser-focused on additional tax increases.
The governor's budget assumes almost $6.2 billion in new tax revenue, so there is absolutely no doubt there is enough of the public's money going into the hands of government.
During the 2012 election, dozens of homeowners in my district asked me not to raise property taxes. These taxes levied for the privilege of occupying a property can cost individual homeowners thousands of dollars a year. Given the real fervor against property tax hikes, I was also puzzled to hear discussions at the conference about methods to circumvent the much needed limits of Proposition 13.
However, the frenetic rush to raise taxes is unseemly. It's sad that some of our politicians are declaring victory and looking to the next tax increase. Responsible policymakers ought to show some restraint and respect for the voters they so passionately seek to tax.
California taxpayers could use a break.