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    Jon Coupal: It wasn’t a great year for California taxpayers, but it wasn’t all bad
    • October 21, 2023

    The deadline for Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign or veto bills sent to him by the Legislature was last weekend. Two weeks ago, this column highlighted a couple of the worst bills to get out of both houses this year. Now seems like a good time to revisit those bills and let you know how California’s beleaguered taxpayers fared.

    AB 28

    Assembly Bill 28 imposes an excise tax in the amount of 11% of the gross receipts from the retail sale in this state of a firearm, firearm precursor part, and ammunition. The governor signed this bill.

    In his signing message, the governor blamed “radical judge” for stripping “away our ability to keep people safe” and said this bill, and 22 other gun bills, would “make our communities and families safer.”

    Keeping people safe is undoubtedly important but the governor would be wise to focus on our rising levels of crime rather than excessively taxing individuals wishing to exercise constitutional rights. 

    AB 28 is estimated to generate $160 million annually in new taxes and, like most ineffective gun legislation, may not survive a legal challenge. 

    AB 126

    Assembly Bill 126 extends several existing and supposedly temporary “fees,” including vehicle registration and smog abatement fees to 2035. The governor signed this one without comment. That’s more than $214 million annually in higher vehicle related costs to taxpayers.

    AB 1228 and SB 525

    Assembly Bill 1228 raises the hourly minimum wage for fast food workers to $20. Senate Bill 525 raises the minimum wage for healthcare workers to $25. The governor signed them both.

    In his signing statement, he said AB 1228 is “one step closer to fairer wages” and “giving hardworking fast-food workers a stronger voice and seat at the table.”

    The fairest wage is whatever an employer and employee voluntarily agree to. This indirect tax is a government mandate that will raise costs on citizen taxpayers. Legislation like these two bills is why California’s cost of living is the highest in the nation.

    AB 1256, AB 1385, AB 1679, SB 335 and SB 862

    These bills raise the local transaction and use tax rate in Humboldt, Riverside, Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Ventura and Santa Cruz counties. The only reason to increase the cap is to increase taxes. The governor signed all of them. Be on the lookout for tax hikes on the ballot in the next election if you live in those counties. 

    SB 799

    Senate Bill 799 makes workers who have been on strike for at least two weeks eligible for unemployment benefits. This radical bill was a bridge too far even in progressive California and, fortunately, Governor Newsom vetoed it.

    In his veto message, the governor made clear that expanding “eligibility for UI benefits could increase California’s outstanding federal UI debt projected to be nearly $20 billion by the end of the year and could jeopardize California’s Benefit Cost Ratio add-on waiver application, significantly increasing taxes on employers.” He also noted that “the state is responsible for the interest payments on the federal UI loan and to date has paid $362.7 million in interest with another $302 million due this month.”

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    In addition to the well-deserved veto of SB 799, Newsom actually signed a few bills that are favorable to taxpayers. AB 556, AB 1500 and SB 520 all made it through.

    Assembly Bill 556 and 1500 gives folks who had their property destroyed in the Camp and Woolsey fires an additional three years to rebuild or move. Senate Bill 520 clarifies that the homeowners’ property tax exemption continues to apply if the taxpayer is not occupying their home because they are confined to a hospital or other care facility. That had become an issue because Prop. 19 requires the property be your primary residence if you want your child to inherit it without a property tax reassessment.

    It wasn’t a great year for taxpayers, but it wasn’t all bad. The next Legislative session begins in December and taxpayers can expect more bad than good coming out of Sacramento.

    Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

    ​ Orange County Register