Letter to the Editor: Time for a Taxpayer Protection Act

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Last week we celebrated the 42nd anniversary of largest taxpayer revolt in modern California history.

Proposition 13 overwhelmingly passed on June 6, 1978 with 66 percent of voter support.

Prior to Proposition 13, local governments set property tax rates, resulting in gouging taxpayers in a patchwork of confusion. The taxpayer backlash was caused by local government gone wild.

Property taxes were reduced from 3 percent to 1 percent, allowing millions of Californians to save their homes.

Proposition 13 also required two thirds voter approval for “general obligation” bonds – a tax by another name.

Within days of its passage Sacramento’s spending lobby went to work to create loopholes in the voter mandate.

Fast forward to 2010. Led by former councilmembers Keith Curry, Rush Hill, Mike Henn, and Steve Rosansky, a scheme was concocted to borrow $126,660,000 to build the Taj Mahal, without voter approval.

In the rush to build their monument to political ego, they prevented you from voting on the massive debt to finance the Taj Mahal.

They used “Certificates of Participation,” an esoteric financing tool developed by the political elite as an end-run around Proposition 13.

Newport’s taxpayers are paying $8,000,000 a year in debt service for the Taj Mahal – by any name that’s a tax. The $128,000,000 debt costs us $228,000,000 when paid off in 2041.

Remember, they even financed the $1,100 desk chairs, and $10,600 conference tables, a $2 million, “Bridge to Nowhere,” and those $221,000 bunnies.

Whether you like the Taj Mahal or not, I believe voters should have a right to decide if they want to pay for it or future massive projects.

It’s a proposal that has been stuck in the city’s finance committee for two years.

Unfortunately, the Finance Committee is becoming a place where taxpayer friendly ideas go to die.

I am considering a citizen sponsored initiative requiring voter approval for debt on large city projects in excess of $25 million.


Newport’s voters are allowed to weigh in on development projects – why not taxpayer debt?


Bob McCaffrey

Newport Beach

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