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The Official Blog of National Taxpayers Union

Santa Barbara’s Ballot Shenanigans: When “Reducing” Taxes = A Tax Hike

Posted by Kristina Rasmussen - September 16, 2008

Read this ballot question wording for the City of Santa Barbara’s Measure G:
Shall Santa Barbara adopt an ordinance reducing the telecommunications utility users tax from 6% to 5.75%, to fund police, fire, 911, parks/recreation, gang prevention and after school programs for at-risk youth, senior services, street repairs, public transit, and other general fund services; exempting low-income seniors; prohibiting a tax rate increase without voter approval; requiring equal treatment of taxpayers regardless of technology, annual audits, public review of expenditures and local control of all revenue?
Since the question asks for voters to approve “reducing the telecommunications utility users tax,” surely they’re talking about a tax cut, right?

Wrong. As the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association points out, it is a shenanigan (registration required):
In a nutshell, the city's present tax is illegal and is going away because of a court ruling involving a similarly worded tax elsewhere.

City officials are trying to exploit this complicated situation to get a new tax on the books and, in the process, con you into thinking that this measure is about "reducing" taxes.
Way to obfuscate the issue, City of Santa Barbara! Is lying about Measure G's real intent the only way you feel confident about getting voters to approve a tax hike? What does that tell you?

The Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association also noted that the City is spending taxpayer dollars to advocate for Measure G, which is a big no-no:
We've already told you of an "ad" for Measure G in the Parks and Recreation Activities Guide that is meant to try to confuse voters into thinking the city is simply reducing the present tax out of the goodness of its heart.

Now a flier in the city's water bills is promoting Measure G.

City Hall has a history of using public resources to promote ballot measures. In the November 2007 election, for example, the City Council put on the ballot a proposal to shift city elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered ones.
Tax dollars should never be used to lobby for higher taxes. What a disgrace.

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