District 3 Councilman Jose F. Moreno is taking advantage of the state-imposed economic shutdown and the legalized cannabis business discussion to beat the drum for more taxes in Anaheim: taxes on telecom, ticket taxes on the Disneyland Resort, the Angels and the Honda Center.
Is anyone really surprised?
At a Zoom townhall he hosted on May 11, Moreno signaled his support for more taxation:
“I’m also mindful that there are other ways to raise revenues in the city. Not just a tax on weed. A reminder that we don’t have a tax on ticket sales in Disneyland or Angels baseball or the Ducks. There are other ways to look at how we might raise revenue. And maybe this is one. But certainly, if we open the box on this for taxing the industry, we need to start thinking about other parts of the revenue that we need to look at, as well.”
Translation: more taxes in the pipeline if Moreno takes control of the city council in November.
As Moreno talks about “opening the box” of increased taxation, Anaheim Union High School District Trustee Annemarie Randle-Trejo – a Moreno ally running for city council from District 4 – nods her head in agreement.
The next evening, the city council discussed an ordinance to legalize cannabis businesses. Doing so would entail placing on the ballot a legalization measure that would include a tax on cannabis business. This has been a normal step for local governments that have taken this step.
For democratic socialist Moreno, the discussion represents an opportunity to “open the box” for enacting more taxation, and he again talked about increasing Anaheim’s level of taxation:
“So, I’m wondering, we do have other industries in our city that are not taxed directly – including telcom, including the Disney Resort – there’s no gate tax – the baseball stadium, Angels baseball, the Ducks. There’s a lot of other revenue streams we can consider.”
Again, Moreno wrongly implies Disney does not pay taxes – a disinformation ploy he’s been using for years. The Disneyland Resort is the biggest taxpayer in Anaheim, by orders of magnitude. That includes property tax – which is about as “direct” as taxation gets.
A few days later, on May 18, Moreno was guest speaker at the May meeting of the Southern California chapter of Our Revolution – a spin-off of the Bernie Sanders for President movement. The meeting is moderated by South County progressive activist Jenna Beck (whose other hobbies include yelling at neighboring families for not making their kids wear masks while riding their bikes).
As you can see, Moreno is positively giddy about the topic of imposing more taxes on Anaheim, cracking that crocodile smile that creases his face whenever he talk about raising taxes:
“It would only take effect if voters approve a November 3rd ballot measure for a cannabis tax which makes it really interesting about all of it is that now a Republican majority on our council will have to push for a local sales tax if they want to the cannabis special interest folks that are funding them, to be able to legally sell in our city. So, that is going to be quite fun in a conversation to hear Republicans argue for a tax. What that does, which I’ve already introduced at our last city council, is that if you want to introduce a tax on cannabis, and you believe that imposing a new tax during a recession actually doesn’t kill an industry, then lets take a look at a gate tax on Disney, a gate tax for Angels baseball, and a ticket-gate tax for the Ducks.”
Here, Moreno utilizes one of his favored debate tactics: creating a platoon of straw man arguments and sending them over the top. He posits that Republicans are opposed to any taxation at all and believe that any tax at all will “kill” a business in a recession. Of course, this isn’t true. No one disputes the necessity of taxation to find government – the differences of opinion manifest themselves regarding the levels and purposes of taxation. Just as it is indisputable that Councilman Moreno seems to consider himself the smartest guy in any room.
Interestingly, Moreno only let his interest in taxing cel phones slip out on one occasion. Perhaps he understands his constituents would react negatively to his desire to increase their cel phone bills.
Contrary to the carefully-cultivated persona of the sober policy-maker he tries to project at council meetings, Moreno’s demeanor here indicates he views the council’s cannabis discussion as a way to engage in partisan political gamesmanship from the council dais while using flawed logic to argue for more taxes.
Moreno’s logic, such as it is, seems to be that consideration of even a discrete and targeted tax means that all tax measures are on the table for discussion. He then tries to paint as unreasonable and illogical anyone who disagrees with his fallacious argument.
The Foresight of Kris Murray’s Anti-Tax Firewall
Again, Moreno’s desire to heap more taxes on Anaheim is no surprise. When he ran unsuccessfully for city council in 2014, he declared himself “open” to a gate tax, a utility tax, a local sales tax increase, increasing commercial property taxes. He campaigned for the huge gas tax increase in 2018 – despite the fact that it falls hardest on the most economically vulnerable.
He muted that appetite until after his 2018 re-election. Now he’s termed out and doesn’t have to worry about paying a political price at the polls.
Councilman Moreno’s deep appetite for increasing the city’s tax burden vindicates former Councilwoman Kris Murray’s foresight in incorporating an anti-tax firewall into the city charter. Murray sponsored the Anaheim Taxpayer Protection Act, which raised the vote threshold for the city council to place a tax measure on the ballot from a simple majority to a two-thirds supermajority. That measure was overwhelmingly approved by Anaheim voters in 2016 as Measure U. Combined with the two-thirds requirement for voter approval of a general tax, Murray’s charter amendment will complicate efforts by a Moreno-controlled city council to roll out the tax increases.