Claremont debates Measure CR
Bob Bowcock said his challenge at Thursday’s Active Claremont Measure CR forum was “to bring Doug [Lyon] on board” with the proposed sales tax increase.
That most likely did not happen, but around 80 Claremonters heard a spirited forum about the potential measure, with Mr. Bowcock arguing for it and Mr. Lyon arguing against.
The city is looking to pass the three-quarter cent sales tax increase this November as a way to eliminate future structural deficits without cutting services to balance the budget. Those against the measure have called CR a regressive tax, and in part claim it would put Claremont businesses at a disadvantage.
Mr. Bowcock said he didn’t see the forum as a pro and con event. “I see this as an opportunity for the community to try to talk about where we’re at, where we’ve been and where we’re going,” he said.
If passed, Measure CR could generate up to $2.5 million per year for the city, which will eliminate next year’s projected shortfall of around $1 million and put a substantial blow in 2023’s projected deficit of $2.8 million.
CR aims to bump Claremont’s current tax rate of 9.5 percent to the state cap of 10.25 percent.
Of that 9.5 percent, 6.25 percent goes to the state’s general fund and one percent is given back to the city from the state, Mr. Bowcock said.
“So don’t think the city collects the sales taxes and sends 6.25 to the state, it all goes to the franchise tax board and they send one percent back to the city,” he said.
Mr. Bowcock spent time throughout the forum driving home the idea that if Claremont doesn’t keep the remaining .75 percent under local control, another county agency will scoop it up and take money out of the city. He noted that Claremont gets back only 10.5 cents for every dollar the city sends to the county through countywide tax measures.
“Wouldn’t you rather have locally generated revenue stay in our community under local control?” Mr. Bowcock asked.
Mr. Bowcock also went into detail about what is and what isn’t subject to the tax—clothing, restaurant meals, non-prescription medication and toys are taxable, while groceries and prescription medication are not. A cup of coffee would cost a penny more under the tax increase, while a dinner for four would cost and extra 55 cents, he said.
Mr. Lyon began his speech with a quote from cowboy actor Will Rogers—“The crime of taxation is not in the taking of it, it’s in the way that it’s spent.”
He claimed that CR would put small businesses in Claremont at a disadvantage, and took aim not only on local spending but on statewide spending as well.
“Measure CR will simply put yet another Band-Aid on California’s dysfunctional public finance system,” he said.
Mr. Lyon also took the idea of a state cap into question. Mr. Bowcock had previously said that Santa Fe Springs has a higher sales tax rate of 10.5 percent, but it was only achieved through state legislation.
It prompted Mr. Lyon to question if there was any “hard and fast” limit to the state cap.
“Honestly, I’m not sure. I can’t find one,” he said.
He said there were no “good faith actions” on the city’s part to stay financially prudent, hearkening back to the city’s unfunded PERS liability and the ongoing settlement payments in the failed takeover of the Claremont water system, among others.
“In short, enough is enough. No more taxes,” Mr. Lyon said. “California must reform its dysfunctional public finance system first.”
Questions from the public at the forum included how businesses would be impacted and what kind of services might be cut if CR doesn’t pass.
More on the meeting will be online next week here at claremont-courier.com.
[Editor’s note: This article was updated to accurately reflect that 6.25 percent of the current sales tax rate goes into the state of California’s general fund]