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Election 2010: Proposition 26 - Taxes and Fees

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Taxes and fees are among the most important tools lawmakers have at their disposal to increase revenue.

"People use the words loosely."

Maureen Gorsen is a lawyer hired by the supporters of Proposition 26.

"Either way, if they call it a 'tax' it's subject to a two-thirds vote, if they call if a 'fee' it's only subject to a majority vote but there's been a lack of clarity as to what the difference is."

Gorsen says that lack of clarity is why fees should but subject to the same two-thirds legislative majority requirement as taxes. She says Californians see new fees or fee increases repeatedly, and they feel just like taxes.

"You know they're putting this fee on this marriage license and a fee on serving alcohol at a bar. That is in fact a tax because it's raising general revenue. So it'll bring honesty to what we're trying to accomplish."

But opponents of Proposition 26 say passing the measure would make it more difficult for California to raise revenues and balance budgets. Mark Tindall is the Vice President of the Sacramento Police Officers Association. He says the general fund is what pays for police officers and fire fighters.

"If you changed those fees into taxes what's going to happen is general funds will be cut even further, public safety will suffer, the citizens will suffer, we can't accept that and we're really concerned. We don't see any place else where we can make any more cuts."

Opponents say they're also concerned Prop 26 would make it easier for big companies to avoid fees when they've responsible for public health, safety or environmental problems. Chevron and Exxon Mobil, among other companies, have donated millions of dollars to support the measure. Sierra Club California Director Bill McGavern says if Prop 26 passes, those companies wouldn't have to pay for environmental damages if they were to have an accident, like an oil spill.

McGavern: "Prop 26 truly is the polluter protection act. It's a toxic sleeper on the ballot that hasn't gotten nearly as much attention as it should."

Supporters of Proposition 26 say they're not trying to protect anybody; they're trying to bring transparency to the process of revenue generation.
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