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Orange County Register: Westminster voters should think twice before approving a sales tax increase

Orange County Register: Westminster voters should think twice before approving a sales tax increase

By Sara Catalan

A tale of two (heavily taxed) cities

Many local cities throughout Orange County find themselves burned with a looming deficit, and the easiest solution many local elected officials see is to raise the local sales tax, or in the case of Westminster, to raise the local sales tax…again.

Last year the city of Westminster went to its residents and asked them to approve a renewal of their previous 1% sales tax increase, referred to as Measure Y. The local ads informed voters that if they did not approve this sales tax increase, emergency services, and therefore residents, would suffer.

Here we are, one year later, and without even allowing for a fiscal year’s worth of collection of the new, increased tax rate – council has already surmised they need an additional ½% sales tax increase again, this time it’s Measure E.

The Westminster City Council debated this new proposal, and OC Tax and other organizations weighed in urging council to hold off on any new tax increases at this time, given the high cost of living and the economic pressures many local businesses were facing. 

The council voted 4-0 to place the measure on the ballot and took it a step further, removing the 20-year sunset provision. Not only is the additional sales tax increase bad economic policy, it’s bad precedent – this is not a limited tax increase to offset the city’s temporary shortfall, this is a permanent tax that, regardless of what the city’s bottom line looks like, will continue forever.

The city of Santa Ana and the city of Los Alamitos are tied for the highest combined tax rate in the county; Santa Ana being one of the largest cities in the county, and Los Alamitos, one of the smallest. With this proposed sales tax increase, Westminster would join them in a three-way tie for the highest tax rates.

At OC Tax we support fair and equitable taxation, especially as it supports critical infrastructure and emergency services, if the city of Westminster wants the title of ‘highest city tax rates’ in the county, they should provide an accounting to their residents of exactly how these funds will be spent and what oversight will be provided to ensure the proper use of these funds, and finally, they must reinstate the sunset provision to ensure that taxpayers will have a chance to choose whether or not to renew this tax increase in the future.

Vote No on Measure E on March 5th.

Sara Catalán is president of the Orange County Taxpayers Association

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