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Orange County Register: California’s boom-and-bust budgeting requires more taxpayer oversight

Updated: Mar 26

Orange County Register: California’s boom-and-bust budgeting requires more taxpayer oversight

By Sara Catalan

In the wake of the financial shock that has seen California’s budget drop from an unprecedented $100 billion surplus to a $73 billion deficit in less than two years, the calls for accountability and fiscal transparency in the state have never been louder. This staggering swing from surplus to deficit raises serious questions about the budgeting gimmicks being used in Sacramento.

Predictably, we know the solution will be for the state to require Californians pay more in taxes to make up for the shortfall.

At OC Tax we know that taxes are essential, and we support taxes that are equitable, understandable and good for the economy. The Taxpayer Protection Act (TPA) will not prevent all future tax increases but will instead require that elected leaders present a full accounting to their constituents before they increase taxes.

The boom-and-bust budgets we are seeing now are a symptom of a bigger problem: our government has done a poor job of living within its means, and voters are tired of it.

That’s one reason why more than 1.4 million California voters signed the petition to qualify this initiative for the November 2024 ballot. The TPA will demand oversight, transparency, and accountability, and will give voters a say in how we are being taxed and how those funds are spent. If it impacts our lives and wallets, we should be informed and involved. 

The TPA restores the foundational democratic principle that the power to tax and spend rests with the people. 

The reasoning behind the TPA is simple: it mandates that any new taxes or fees proposed by state or local government must receive approval from voters. It restores many taxpayer-protection provisions from Prop 13 that have been eroded over time and shines a light on the “behind closed doors” process of government spending. These protections will allow Californians to make informed decisions about their financial futures.

The TPA also addresses the issue of “hidden taxes”—fees which increase the cost of government services. By requiring detailed descriptions of tax proposals, including their rates, durations, and intended uses, the TPA promises a new era of fiscal responsibility, where government agencies cannot hide the true cost of their projects any longer, they must justify the cost to the people they are supposed to serve.

At its core, the Taxpayer Protection Act gives voters more power to be involved and creates greater trust between Californians and their government by instituting transparency. 

As the November 2024 General Election looms, the TPA stands as a crucial opportunity for Californians to voice their demand for a government that is accountable, transparent, and, above all, responsive to the needs of its people. Supporting this initiative is a declaration that the Golden State belongs to its residents, who deserve a prosperous, democratic, and transparent California.

OCTax is the only countywide organization whose exclusive focus is to represent taxpayers on government tax and spending policy issues, and we know that instituting the taxpayer safeguards outlined in the TPA are essential to building a more stable financial future for California. 

The state must work towards a governance model that values and upholds the principles of accountability and transparency. Now is the time for all Californians to rally behind this initiative, ensuring a future where taxpayer dollars are safeguarded, and government actions are aligned with the public interest. Together, we can create a legacy of fiscal responsibility that will serve as a model for generations to come.

Sara Catalán is president of the Orange County Taxpayers Association

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