This past Valentine’s Day, while most people were busy sending valentines, flowers, and chocolates to their loved ones, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors were dreaming about what they love the most—more taxes. Seven of the eleven supervisors (Peskin, Fewer, Ronen, Kim, Yee, Safai, and Cohen) voted for Resolution No. File 170161, which urged the California state legislature to amend the Revenue and Taxation Code to allow local California jurisdictions to collect personal and corporate income taxes as a “sustained source of funding for transportation and public health priorities.” The resolution cites AB1690 introduced by then-State Assemblyman Mark Leno in 2003 (which thankfully died in committee) as a model for this latest effort “to look for progressive revenue sources...in a menu of options.” And we’re not talking about chump change here—they want a full 10% of an individual’s state income tax liability. That’s on top of the federal income tax and the California state income tax, which at 13.3% is the highest rate in the entire country. Triple taxation!
The reasons cited for the necessity of this new tax are the threatened loss of federal funding due to Sanctuary City policies and the intended repeal of Obamacare. Is the loss of federal funding serious enough to The City’s budget to require two new taxes? What will become of President Trump’s executive order to identify funds the federal government can withhold to punish Sanctuary Cities? Will Obamacare be repealed and not replaced? Why don’t the politicians consider cutting costs when confiscations are down?
First let’s take a serious look at the cutting of federal funding to Sanctuary Cities. Regardless of what the President says, cutting off federal funds is not as easy as it sounds. The first problem is that it’s unconstitutional to use federal funds to force local government agencies to cooperate with the federal government. The second problem is that the President’s power to withhold federal funding is limited without the help of Congress. There are three federally funded programs all administered by the Department of Justice that could be blocked without Congress’ approval: The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (JAG), the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAPP). However, since the President’s executive order included language protecting federal grants “deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary,” it might not be so easy to block even these three grant programs. Furthermore, to maintain funding, jurisdictions must be in compliance with U.S. Code 1373, which says that state and local governments can’t forbid employees from sharing information regarding the citizenship or immigration status of any person. The Department of Justice could block the grants without Congressional approval, but it must first refer each jurisdiction’s case to the non-partisan Office of the Inspector General, and because over 300 jurisdictions have Sanctuary City policies, it’s a typical convoluted government process that could take months or even years for approval before actual fund-cutting occurs. In actuality, many of the Sanctuary Cities are already in compliance with U.S. Code 1373, so it might not even make sense for the Trump Administration to waste resources on this effort. The federal government could issue new regulations redefining what “compliance” with 1373 is, but even that would necessitate a 30-day public response period and numerous challenges in court. It seems apparent that even President Trump for all his bluster would take a long time—possibly years—before being able to actually cut any of the federal funding.
As for Obamacare, anyone following the hot air rising in Washington should be able to see that it’s not going away anytime soon. For years the Republicans have railed that it must be repealed, but now that they’re in control of both houses, they’re getting cold feet. Some Republicans are now cautioning against moving too fast to dismantle the current system without something better to replace it. There is absolutely no consensus on the replacement, which became especially obvious recently when Republican lawmakers had to shelve legislation that would have dismantled Obamacare due to a lack of supporting votes. Most certainly the Republicans do not want to get blamed for widespread disruption in health insurance coverage. Furthermore, despite the general unpopularity of Obamacare, some parts of it, like coverage for pre-existing conditions and allowing “children” 25 or younger to remain on their parents’ policy, have gone over well with the voting public, so any replacement plan would have to retain those features or offer something similar. The Republicans are petrified that if people start losing coverage, the media will spring into action with gut-wrenching stories about cancer victims or disabled people suddenly losing coverage. Most Republicans lack the backbone to actually get rid of Obamacare and replace it with more market-based approaches like tax credits (not deductions) for individuals for healthcare costs and getting rid of the restriction on selling insurance across state lines, which would greatly increase the types of plans available and lower costs. Getting rid of Obamacare’s thousands of pages of rules would also be a good place to start, but the recent effort by the Republicans did not even attempt that. In short, Obamacare—or something very similar to it—will be with us for the foreseeable future.
So that brings us back to the question of why additional taxes need to be levied in San Francisco when there is no immediate or even short-term chance of major funding cuts from the federal government. There is no impending “crisis”—the leaders of “The Resistance” are just using it as yet another excuse for increased taxes and more bloated government. They have no shame.