Opinion | David Coher: Pasadena Doesn’t Have a Revenue Problem. We Have a Spending Problem.

Published : Thursday, November 1, 2018 | 2:15 PM

Amongst the more troubling initiatives on the upcoming November 6 are Pasadena’s Measures I and J, which, if passed, would raise the sales tax in Pasadena by 3/4¢ to the absolute maximum allowed by law – 10.25%.

Pasadena does face a problem with getting its budget under control. Unfortunately, rather than finding reasonable ways to lower the bills or make decisions to go without – as you and I have to do when we balance our checkbook – Measures I and J would combine to both attack Pasadena’s most vulnerable residents, with a regressive tax, while simultaneously attacking our small business community, all in the name of a misleading campaign being run out of City Hall.

Sales tax is a regressive tax, a tax that takes a larger percentage from low-income workers than those with high-incomes. The effect is to make those who can least afford to do so, pay more than high-income earners. With everything from gas, food, and the cost of living, to interest rates on the rise, is now the time to make our lower-income families and seniors pay more?

Not only would Measures I and J hurt those who can least afford it, it would also hurt Pasadena’s businesses by putting them at a disadvantage compared to other businesses in cities next door. Making our small businesses owners work harder, as the ones who would be collecting the vast majority of these taxes, to pay for the City’s bills, is just not right.

At least one part of the tax will not be unfair to small business owners – because it will hit all of us. Cars are taxed based upon your home address, so if you’re in the market for a car, get ready to pay more no matter which dealership you go to, in Pasadena or otherwise.

Equally concerning is that the City has not been transparent about its spending and budgeting and, in turn, about why it needs this money and how it will be spent.

In a misleading campaign, the City has asserted that the money will be spent on infrastructure repairs and schools. But, the money is not to pay for infrastructure or schools, it’s to pay for pension liabilities. Read the ballot statement for yourself, “Monies from the proposed Tax would be deposited in the City’s General Fund to be used [howsoever the City sees fit.]”

Meanwhile, in self-contradiction, the City also tells us that Measure J will make it all well by giving money to our schools. But, again, read your ballot pamphlet, because Measure J is an “Advisory Vote Only” – so it means nothing. It can’t – State law forbids Measure J from having any teeth, and the City of Pasadena knows this. To use our schools, and our children, as a deceptive political cover is unacceptable.

The facts are that the City’s proposal is estimated to raise $21 million while, conveniently, according to a July 2018 report available on the CalPERS website, the City’s unfunded pension liability will be $25 million next year and is projected to rise to $27 million the following year. Then why aren’t they raising taxes enough to cover those even HIGHER pension liabilities? Because the law won’t let them! Once again, State Law limits the City by reigning in how much they would be allowed to raise the sales tax.

As one local business owner put it, recently, “The city doesn’t have a revenue problem. They have a spending problem.”


David Coher is a concerned resident of Pasadena, California.





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