Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oakland Council Is Making a Mistake

By Robert Gammon
Tue, Feb 24, 2009 at 10:10 AM

Raising taxes during a recession makes almost no sense at all -- especially when the burden will fall disproportionately on middle and lower-middle income families. Can you imagine the reaction if the Obama Administration proposed raising taxes on the middle class right now. It would be a firestorm, from both the right and the left. Yet that's not stopping the Oakland City Council, which today is considering new ballot measures that would raise taxes during one of the worst economic times since the Great Depression.

The first, and most objectionable, of the propossed measures is a $46 annual parcel tax for park maintenance and tree trimming. First off, parcel taxes are regressive because property owners are forced to pay the same amount regardless of how big their piece of property is or where it's located. And second, it's just plain crazy to hit folks with a new tax when they're already hurting. And finally, we're going to do this for park maintenance and tree trimming? The measure is being pushed by Councilwoman Jean Quan, who apparently can't get over the fact that property owners twice before rejected similar measures.

The second proposed measure would raise the city's hotel-room tax. Although it's not as bad as the parcel tax, Oakland shouldn't be doing anything to discourage the tourist or convention industry when the economy is already in the gutter. Sure, you might be thinking that the state just decided to raise some taxes to help balance its budget, why shouldn't Oakland? Well, the state's new taxes will be burdensome enough. Also, Oakland simply needs to get serious about making cuts to its bloated bureaucracy. How about we start with salaries?

Finally, the council is considering reversing Measure OO, the November ballot measure that forces the city to set aside loads of cash each year for kids programs. In this case, the council is on the right track -- Measure OO was a bad initiative, and it needs to be overturned.

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