Anaheim Insider here.
At the brand launch celebration last week in downtown Anaheim, as the former Anaheim/Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau officially relaunched as Visit Anaheim, protocol dictated that the Mayor be on hand to make a few remarks.
But more than a few snickers could be heard from the back of the audience as the Mayor ticked off all the great reasons to “Visit Anaheim” – the Angels, the Convention Center, our great hotels, and of course, Disneyland.
One couldn’t help but point out the irony that if the Mayor had his way, Anaheim would not have a Convention Center expansion underway, the Angels would already be packing for their new home, and no new four-diamond hotels would be in various stages of the pipeline.
That left Disneyland, but tonight, the Mayor appears destined to add Disney to the ranks of things about Anaheim that everyone likes – except Tait.
However, in his zeal to oppose anything – ANYTHING – that might appear to grow the economic engine that is the Anaheim Resort, the public policy contortions the Mayor has undergone become more hilarious, more sad, and yes, more leftist, with each passing day.
The Mayor, then a member of the City Council, was one of a unanimous city council that supported the 1996 Disney deal. This deal expanded the Anaheim Resort, had the city issuing hundreds of millions of dollars of bonds, backed by a portion of tax revenue generated in the Resort, and the city paying for the massive Mickey & Friends parking structure. It also imposed was is commonly referred to in Anaheim as the “Gate Tax Moratorium” for 20 years, from 1996 to 2016.
The gate tax ban policy before the council tonight for a 30- to 45-year extension, also referred to as a Moratorium, is the same the one the City Council approved 19 years ago.
Since today’s Council cannot bind the hands of a future Council or ballot measure from imposing a local tax targeting entertainment admission tickets, the solution to create a stable business climate designed to attract Disney investment is to contractually bind the City to rebate any gate tax proceeds to Disney. The effect of this policy is not to create a “giveaway”, but to remove any incentive to ever impose such a tax.
After all, good, conservative economic policy would dictate that you don’t tax the hand that feeds you. And the Mayor would seem to agree, signing the OCGOP’s taxpayer protection pledge in which the candidate, in this case Tait, agreed to oppose all tax increases and oppose all efforts to impose taxes.
Flash forward to today. The policy enacted with Tait’s support 20 years ago has been a success by all measures. Disney employment has doubled. Hotel tax collection in Anaheim have more than doubled. Employment by neighbor hotels, restaurants, and other business are also way up. It is a model of conservative governance – agree to keep taxes low, businesses invest, employment rises, and general taxes on the bigger economic pie lead the government to a strong balance sheet.
The policy before the Council tonight is, if anything, even more conservative. The only part being discussed is extending the gate tax moratorium, and Disney promising to invest at least $1 billion expanding the parks. Whether the investment means a Star Wars Land, a Marvel Land, or a Frozen Land remains to be seen. But unlike 1996, when Tait supported the agreement, this policy does not obligate the City to take on any new debt, or pay for any infrastructure. Disney is paying for all that.
So if you supported the Disney deal in 1996, how can you not support a new, more conservative version of the deal? After all, unlike some other public private partnerships in the Anaheim Resort, the Orange County Register Editorial Board and the Lincoln Club of Orange County, two key Tait allies, have even blessed the deal. Low taxes and private investment are good things, right?
Well, that’s where the sad state of affairs on Tait and Anaheim politics vis a vis the Resort come in. You see, the Mayor has so locked himself into opposing to anything having to do with the Resort and “Big Business” in Anaheim that he can’t even support a conservative, common sense, low-tax policy that he has already supported before!
In the Orange County Register coverage of his opposition, he called himself “wiser” than in 1996. But on the contrary, as we have pointed out, he is just more locked into being against everything.
Imagine a politician offering these words, and what would you use to describe him:
“It is not that I think we need a split-roll tax or property tax increase today. However, it is a mistake to tie the hands of future voters and of the Legislature. We have no crystal ball. What we do know is that the state has several major financial pressures looming, including billions in unfunded pension liabilities and medical retirement obligations. The state has borrowed billions for water projects, roads, high speed rail, and schools. We cannot anticipate the needs of state city in 10, 20 or 30 years. And who are we to decide what people who aren’t even born yet will want to do with their votes and taxpayer money?”
In other words, if the state’s obligations get too high, we should ditch Prop 13 and increase property taxes to pay the bill.
Now look at Tom Tait’s op-ed in the Register:
“It is not that I think we need this tax today. However, it is a mistake to tie the hands of future voters and taxpayers. We have no crystal ball. What we do know is that the city has several major financial pressures looming, including $560 million in unfunded pension liabilities and $160 million in unfunded medical retirement obligations. The council majority, against my wishes, voted to borrow $200 million to expand the Convention Center. We cannot anticipate the needs of our city in 10, 20 or 30 years. And who are we to decide what people who aren’t even born yet will want to do with their votes and taxpayer money?”
How is that any different from the first post as an excuse to go after Prop 13 if “the need is great”? Answer: it’s not.
No conservative, anti-tax leader believes that the right policy is to tax your economic engines in time of need. Whenever possible, we should take tax increases off the table. Conservatives believe we should cut taxes, or at least keep them steady, to create an environment in which a growing private sector helps bring revenue to government for needed services.
Leftist activists in Anaheim know what is at stake in tonight’s vote, because they know that their best way to grow the government beats is to impose a new tax on Disney guests. The only shocking news is that Tait continues to make allegiance – effectively – with Jose F. Moreno in his drive to impose this new tax in Anaheim.