STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF MEASURE D
Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard
There's been some confusion about Measure D, which appears on Tuesday's ballot. But the underlying issue is very simple: If you're satisfied with city services in your neighborhood -- or would like to see them improved -- you should vote YES on Measure D. If you want Pasadena to cut back on city services, vote No.
For forty years Pasadena, like most California cities, has collected a modest utility users tax (UUT) on telephone service. The money goes straight into the city's General Fund to pay for everything from fire fighters and police to librarians and street repairs.
Measure D simply continues that arrangement just as it has been for decades. No tax increase; no change for consumers.
Why are we having a vote to keep things the same? Because of a technicality: changes in the wording of Federal law made local UUT ordinances technically invalid. So every city must rewrite its ordinance and resubmit it to voters. Many have done so already. Others, like Pasadena and Los Angeles, are doing so on Tuesday.
The change comes if Measure D fails. Then Pasadena could lose $10 million a year in UUT revenue that currently helps pay for everything from 911-emergency response to after-school programs. The city's focus will have to shift from improving services to deciding which cuts will cause the least damage.
That would be bad news in the best of times. In a year when California faces $14 billion in state budget cuts, it is disastrous. The damage from losing the UUT would come on top of damage from cuts in state funding -- a double whammy for the city, and especially for our schools.
That is why the PUSD School Board has joined the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the Pasadena Fire Fighters Association, the Chief of Police, and many other organizations in support of Measure D.
So why the confusion? Anti-tax activists oppose Measure D. But rather than debate the impact of losing city services, they've tried to scare people with internet tax fantasies. Measure D updates the legal description of telephone service (which has changed quite a bit since 1969!). Opponents seized on this language to claim the real goal is taxing the internet.
There are three problems with that claim: First it just isn't true. A judge has already ruled it "false and misleading."
Second, the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that permanently forbids any tax on internet access without a vote of the people -- and that ordinance is binding on this and all future Councils.
Third, the Federal Government has long had a moratorium on all forms of internet taxation -- and the moratorium was recently extended for another seven years!
It is true that, without the moratorium, telephone service over the internet would be subject to the UUT, just like all other forms of telephone service. But that is already true under current law -- hence the need for a moratorium! Measure D changes nothing. The future of internet taxation will be decided in Washington, not here in Pasadena.
What will be decided in Pasadena is the quality of life in our city. That's what at stake with Measure D. Losing the UUT's $10 million dollars a year would blow a huge hole in our budget -- the equivalent of wiping out all ten of the city's libraries -- or erasing a quarter of our fire department. There's simply no way to avoid cuts that will be felt in every neighborhood.
I urge voters to protect Pasadena's quality of life, and keep our budget balanced, with no new taxes. Please vote YES on Measure D.