Opinion | Paul Little: Why is the Pasadena City Council Penalizing Our Most Vulnerable Residents?

Published : Sunday, October 21, 2018 | 5:57 AM

By placing Measure I on the ballot for November 6th, the Pasadena City Council is asking local voters to make it more difficult for the economically impacted who live in Pasadena to pay rent and put food on the family table.

If the voters of Pasadena give the Pasadena City Council complete discretion to spend another $14 million to $21 million per year, they will be doing so at the expense of those least able to pay the increase.

Let me explain.

Sales taxes are among the most regressive that can be levied. That means, sales taxes cost those at the lower end of the economic scale much more of their income than middle and higher earners. The additional sales tax on everything from toiletries, clothes, household items, prepared food, schoolbooks and school supplies will eat up a much larger proportion of our economically impacted people’s income who have little, if any, discretion in spending.

If a low income person needs to replace their car, they are taxed for that based on their address, not the point of purchase, so, the amount they pay for the $2,500 car is a much higher portion of their income than if any of your city council representatives purchase a brand new Tesla. For a family on the low end of the economic spectrum, that additional $18.75 of sales tax could mean the difference between eating a nutritious dinner and heating up enough high fat, high carbohydrate food to fill the kids’ stomachs.

Yes, I can afford a few more cents when I buy a book at Vroman’s or even if I buy a new car, but what about those who aren’t middle income people?

A 2014 national study found that among families of four low-income families spend a little more than $9,000 each year on household necessities. A middle-income family, the same study found, paid less than $12,000 and an upper income family paid less than $18,000. High income was defined as families with after-tax income of more than $100,000. Middle-income families were those with after-tax income of $65,000. Low-income families were defined as those with after-tax income of $18,000 in 2014.

Lower income people also pay a higher percentage, about 50% of after-tax income, on rent. If you are spending $9,000 on rent and $9,000 on household necessities, what will you cut to make up for additional dollars you pay in sales tax?

In Pasadena, 15.8% of our population lives below poverty level, according to census statistics. In Pasadena, the 2014 poverty level was defined as a family of four living on $30,000 per year of pre-tax income. Average rents in Pasadena are astronomical, even lower cost apartments go for $1000 to $1200 per month. Image, trying to put food on the table when your rent is $12,000 per year, your household necessities (food, clothing, toiletries) cost $9,000 (or more), where is the income to pay an additional $90 to $150 per year in sales taxes?

Let’s be compassionate and consider those who really need help. Voting for Measure I only gives the City Council the indiscriminate ability to spend $14 million to $20 million on whatever they choose. There are no requirements that the City Council spend money where they promise in the ballot arguments. They aren’t even required to provide 1/3 to the Pasadena Unified School District should Measure J pass. Should Measure I pass. The additional sales taxes will hurt our poorest families who bear the greatest burden.

Vote NO on Measure I.

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