PERSPECTIVE-As I wrote in an earlier article, State Senator Bob Hertzberg is a master of the English language. According to his bio, as an undergraduate English major, he wrote a 400-page handbook titled A Commonsense Approach to English.
Unfortunately, the senator has embarked on a course of language manipulation as his strategy to significantly raise taxes for all Californians. The people who can least afford it will bear the brunt of Hertzberg’s money-grabbing obsession.
After he was elected to the State Senate in 2014, he did not waste any time in rolling out a new way to relieve residents of their hard-earned cash. His first crack at it was SB8, which would have taxed most services – from the labor on repairs to haircuts. SB8 died quietly; its replacement, SB1445, isn’t going anywhere at the moment.
He had the hutzpah to refer to the bill as “tax modernization,” as blatant a euphemism as, say, calling a mass layoff a “workforce imbalance correction.” It would “modernize” an additional $10B per year from the people and businesses in the state, but disproportionately from low- and middle-income earners.
Hertzberg, the serial hugger, perhaps feeling the pain of unrequited love from that attempt, employed his wordsmithing skills again, this time to win passage of SB231. By redefining sewer to include storm water, the bill opened the door to flood property owners with expensive parcel taxes. Since it is already legal to raise taxes to pay for sewer service improvements without a vote, taxes for storm water mitigation projects will not require voter approval either.
Words have meaning, as Hertzberg knows very well.
They have even more meaning when they are embedded in the constitution. Any new interpretation or redefinition of language affecting state or local governments’ ability to raise taxes should require a formal amendment. The process of changing the state constitution should not be conducted like a game of Scrabble. To do so is disrespectful to the people of California.
Responsible leaders will do their best to mitigate tax increases with spending restraint.
You will not see Hertzberg deal with cost containment, including reining in excessive employee post-retirement benefits.
Neither he nor his colleagues will ever attempt to prioritize capital spending. We cannot afford to pay for every high-end project.
There was a time when Senator Hertzberg was a reasonable politician. He probably would have made a good mayor, certainly a better one than Antonio Villaraigosa. But somewhere along the line, his ego probably got the better of him. He has ceased to be a responsible leader and now resembles the essence of what Thomas Nast depicted in his caricatures lampooning Boss Tweed.
(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone and do not represent the opinions of Valley Village Homeowners Association or CityWatch. He can be reached at: email@example.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.