Turning Conservative Ideas On Equality And Taxation Inside Out

Reiff Tait Inside OC feature

I posted last week on the recent Inside OC interview with Mayor Tom Tait. Another topic raised by host Rick Reiff was the cit council’s approval last summer of a development agreement with Disney that effectively immunizes Disneyland visitors from imposition of a city entertainment or “gate” tax until at least 2046, and possibly until 2061 if Disney invests $1.5 billion in the Disneyland Resort by certain deadlines.

It’s important to note a few things before continuing on. First, Anaheim has never had an entertainment tax. Secondly, this ban wasn’t really new, but a continuation of an existing ban stemming from a 1996 agreement between Disney and the City of Anaheim creating a framework for Disney investment in the Resort, including Adventure Park, the Grand Californian Hotel, the Downtown Disney District in 2001 and ultimately the addition of Cars Land to California Adventure. Furthermore, Disney has already hit the milestones in the latest development agreement.

When Reiff asked him why he opposed the  de facto extension of the entertainment tax moratoriam, Mayor Tait gave a number of reasons:

“No other company that I know of…has a veto power over the people on the vote of a tax.”

The problem with this reasoning is it’s wrong. Disney has no such veto power over the people or their representatives on the city council, and the agreement doesn’t grant it. It is simply untrue to make such an assertion. Anaheim voters are free to approve a gate tax if a future council or political organization were foolish enough to place one on the ballot. The agreement renders such a move self-defeating becuase the city would have to pay Disney an amount equivalent to the revenue from the gate tax – and that would simply transfer money from Disneyland visitors to Disney.

In other words, the agreement creates a powerful disincentive for the city to pursue a destructive policy of taxing people simply because they are visiting Disneyland. Such a tax would be regressive, destructive and certain to get larger over time as council progressives dream up new ways to spend other people’s money.

“I’m definitely not for limiting the right of the people to vote for a tax, whether you agree [with] it or not.”

This is an interesting statement, and I’m not convinced the mayor has fully thought through its implications.  For example, Proposition 13 imposes several limitations on the right of the people to vote for a tax. It prohibits them from raising property taxes for more than 1% annually. It limits that right by requiring a two-thirds majority of voters to enact a special tax, and it prohibits the state legislature from raising taxes by less than a two-thirds majority of both houses.

The Anaheim City Charter prohibits the imposition of new or increases taxes by less than two-thirds of the voters.

These are all limitations on the right of the people to vote for tax, and most people – especially adherents of limited government – believe it is wise to have such limitations in place. Conservatives fight to protect these limitations on “the people’s right to tax,” while denizens of the Left relentlessly seek to remove them as impediments to the growth of government.

If the mayor were to apply his stated principle across the board, he would have to support the repeal of Proposition 13 and the above-mentioned provision of the city charter – which he does not. What we’re left with is intellectual confusion and cognitive dissonance.

The mayor is basically arguing for the unlimited right of taxation by plebiscite – a notion that is profoundly at odds with the Revolutionary principles upon with the Founders built the Republic. It is, instead, an idea grounded in progressivism, which rejects the principles of the Founding.

Our Declaration of Independence [states] all are created equal. In this case, I suppose one company is more equal than others.

Let’s start with the obvious: the Declaration is talking about individual human beings, not companies. The mayor makes the same argument here as he did against the GardenWalk agreement, and as I pointed out in the previous post, Mayor Tait has supported reforms that afford certain types of “cool” businesses regulatory advantages not available to other, less cool businesses.

Furthermore, this appeal to the principle of equality in the Declaration is strange given the mayor’s embrace of changing the city’s election law in an effort to produce councilmembers of a preferred ethnicity – which is in opposition to the Declaration.

Disney shouldn’t have brought this forth in the first place. Over 60 year history of the city with Disney, the city has not passed a tax, but the people have the right to do that. It’s a principle matter. Once you do it for Disney…an immigrant comes to Anaheim wants to open a restaurant, shouldn ‘t you be given the same prohibition on taxes for 45 years? It’s a principle thing.

Disney would have been foolish not to seek an extension of the entertainment tax now. For starters, there’s the obvious reality that the 1996 moratorium will expire in a few months. Tait is correct there has been no entertainment tax during the city’s 60-year history with Disneyland. So what? Mayor Tait is constantly talking about how there have never been by-district council elections in Anaheim’s 158-year history, and he’s positively ecstatic about bringing that history to an end.  That Tait’s pro-district coalition partners were furious and apoplectic at the prospect of Disneyland visitors being put beyond their taxing grasp for 45 years confirms Disney’s wisdom in seeking a certain tax environment while there is still a pro-business majority on the city council.

Reiff asked if Tait had prevailed, would it cost Anaheim jobs and the support of the business community. Tait response:

I think Disney is gonna do what they’re gonna do whether they have that or not. I think they would go for it with their big expansion with their Star Wars park, whether they had this provision or not. For example, in Orlando, they’re building that park in Orlando, and Orlando, in the state of Florida, that has a six-and-a-half percent sales tax on the admissions. In Anaheim it’s zero. So of the 100 dollar ticket price, zero taxes are paid. I’d say they have a great deal in Anaheim.

Mayor Tait and other critics of the gate tax ban have repeatedly made this claim. The reality is they have no idea what Disney would have done absent a continuation of the entertainment tax ban. Disney is a global media conglomerate. Building a Star War Land Disneyland is only one of any number of opportunities for Disney to productively invest $1.5 billion.

Furthermore, Tait’s the Orlando comparison is a red herring that actually undermine’s his point. The state 6.5% sales tax on admissions is a certainty that Disney can factor into its calculations. the opposite was true in Anaheim: would the lack of a gate tax continue in the future? Maybe. maybe not. But it doesn’t take a psychic to see the Anaheim City Council will be tilting in a pro-tax direction with the advent of by-dsitrict elections.

I think there are things that are more important than money, frankly, and that’s the principles upon which this country was founded, and about treating people equally, and the right of the people, in the future generations to have a say in their city. I have a new grandson who will be 47 before they can vote for any new tax on Disney.

Maybe I missed it, but I’m not aware of anyone in Anaheim politics stating that money is more important than the principles of the American Founding.  And at the risk of being repetitive, how does one square “treating people equally” with using the race and ethnicity of a certain segment of Anaheim’s population as the criteria for drawing council districts an deciding which ones will be on the ballot first? It would be interesting to see the mayor treat his leftist political allies to a discourse on the principles of the American Founding and watch their reaction.

The right of future generations of Anaheimers to “have a say in their city” remains unimpaired, notwithstanding hyperbolic alarmism to the contrary. And the fact that it will be 47 years before a new tax can be imposed on visitors to Disneyland ought to be cause for celebration in this overtaxed republic, rather than consternation and handwringing.


  1. Sadly this is a serious question. At this point who is more leftwing; Tom Tait or Miguel Pulido?

  2. Can we clear up something on the 6.5% tax in Orlando? That’s a sales tax that applies to everything. Florida State sales tax is 6% and counties can add up to 1.5% as they choose to. The extra .5% sales tax in Orlando is a county wide tax that applies to all purchases. It is not a gate tax. And that extra tax applies to every theme park Disney and Universal Studios operate in Orlando.

    There is nothing preventing Anaheim from passing a local sales tax, but it will affect everyone and hurt poor to middle class families the most.

    If the mayor keeps pushing this tax in Florida as a gate tax, he’s sadly misinformed.

  3. Just watched the program….Suggestion: Those of you that have been paid off by Disney, Arte Moreno and hotel developers should not direct people to watch this interview. The mayor makes his case very well.

    Dan…Really? have you noticed that Disney has raised the price of admission just a tad? If Disney chose to add $1.00 on top to help the working poor do think the whole castle would crumble?

    • Matthew Cunningham

      “Those of you that have been paid off by…”

      Well now, Thomas: you must be super-confident in your arguments in order employ such lame attempt to pre-emptively impeach the credibility of anyone who disagrees with you and Tait on this issue.

      “The mayor makes his case very well.”

      Does he present it well? Sure – the mayor has an appealing personality. Bernie Sanders presents his views well – and they’re still nonsense. The way Mayor Tait presents his arguments doesn’t mean they hold up, or that he has thought them through. On the contrary, they are logically flawed and ill-considered.

      “If Disney chose to add $1.00 on top to help the working poor do think the whole castle would crumble?”

      Who said it would “only” be a dollar? Or if it were, that it would remain “only” a dollar? If $1 isn’t much, then neither is $2, or $5, right? Liberals habitually preface their tax grabs with the qualifier “it’s just” or “it’s only.” There’s nothing in the rhetoric or record of gate tax proponents to inspire any confidence a gate tax would be limited or small. Quite the contrary. Proponents will view Disneyland visitors as milch cows. Federal income tax proponents promised it would only be a small percentage and applied only to the very rich. Income tax withholding was a “temporary” WWII measure.

    • Thomas,

      Please tell us WHY it is the responsibility of park goers OR Disney to help the working poor?

    • There is nothing from stopping the Anaheim City Council from passing a city-wide sales tax, but it would apply to much more than Disney. Apply it to all businesses that sell products where a sales tax is applicable. And that sort of tax would hurt poor working families more because the tax applies to everyone who buys in Anaheim.

      Disney charges what the market will bear. When the price gets too high, park attendance will flatten or go down. Disney is the city’s largest single taxpayer. Pointing out that pro-gate tax people are wrong about the tax in Orlando undercuts the argument for a gate tax in Anaheim.

    • So would the working poor line up for free checks or cash?

      • This isn’t really about the working poor. A gate tax is a tool to be used by lefty types like a promise of coke in the drinking fountains at lunch. Such a tax can start at $1 but new votes comes with new promises so this number inherently goes up each election cycle. Instead, elected officials should focus on growing the economy and providing stability for companies that support/subsidize services to the local community.

  4. Dan,
    Perhaps I misunderstood your argument. It looks like I mistakenly thought you were saying that Disney would see attendance go down if a small tax was added. I now believe you were making the broader argument against sales taxes were are regressive and disproportionately hurt the poor. I agree with you on that.

    Harpoon and Jack,
    It seems like your viewpoint is that the working poor bad are people that don’t deserve our consideration. I’m not talking about helping the lazy people that accost us and beg for money or the lazy welfare / government cheese people. I’m talking about the hard working people that I know and see everyday. They are work two and three minimum wage jobs just to squeak by. They are too proud to ask for help and don’t want it. The biggest negative impact on our community from what I see is that the extreme work hours leave little or no time to spend quality time with their children. Disney is not evil, but I think that the enormous pressure to squeeze every penny of profit out of our city and has consequences and Disney has a responsibility to be a part of the solution.

    I forgot, you are the only one allowed to pre-emptively impeach the credibility of those you disagree with. Are you saying that you, Jordan, Kring and Murray don’t take money from Disney, the hotel developers or Arte Moreno?

    • Matthew Cunningham

      Well, Thomas: if I have been guilty of that, I am sure I was at least specific – unlike your blanket impeachment of unnamed characters.

      But I see you are now naming names. OK, then – you assert that because their campaigns have received contributions from Disney, Arte Moreno and “hotel developers,” then Brandman, Murray and Kring have been “paid off.”

      Let’s take your premise – that campaign contributions are a pay-off – and apply it to other elected officials. Are the members of the Anaheim City School District and AUHSD Boards of Education “paid off” by the teachers union and the classified employees unions? Has Jose F. Moreno been paid off by the various unions and leftist political interests that have contributed to his campaigns?

      According to your argument, the answer is emphatically “yes” – especially the school board members, who are far, far more dependent on teacher union money.

      Perhaps you didn’t think that unfair, untrue accusation through. And you aren’t alone: Jose Moreno is prone to the same simplistic, unfair accusations.

    • Matthew Cunningham

      And one more thing: you should take issue with what Anaheim Jack actually wrote, rather than putting words in his mouth and then arguing with your made-up argument.

  5. Moreno ran the county’s second worst school district. He has his fans but not as many as he thinks he has. All he wants is a handout. He’ll raise next to no money. Being Latino won’t be enough

    • Harpoon, THAT’S NOT TRUE. According to the state it was THE WORST! in terms of test scores, attendance and academic growth.

      • Schools located in impoverished neighborhoods will always be outscored by schools in wealthy areas. Why? Parents in wealthier area have time to be parents. Regardless, when a Latino father of four steps up and says I want to help make it better he should be commended not vilified. Dr Moreno is a true hero in our community. It would be easy for him to move to a wealthier area or send his children to private schools, but he is showing us that Anaheim has some awesome schools and they are getting better.

        • Funny this very stguement is being played out on the Liberal OC blog. Where aledgedly progressive candidate for congress, Joe Dun, again alledgedly gamed the system for his kid. But Jose shouldit matter of they are Latino or martian?

        • Matthew Cunningham

          Funny. When poor and working class Anaheim parents took action for the benefit of the children and students to com by turning Palm Lane into a charter school, Moreno sided with the public education establishment and against those parents.

          • EXACTLY. Now we see Jose Moreno is serving CTA monies by suing Magnolia.

            School choice is one of the most fundamental decisions we have to make as parents, some people think we shouldn’t have that ability.

            I hope Dan’s blog blows this thing up, it will be interesting to watch the “progressives” squirm and dodge to avoid offending the teachers unions, allthewhile sending their kids to charters and outlying districts.

            The Fact is: Jose Moreno did a TERRIBLE job as a school board member, Anaheim schools were among the WORST, now he’s suing??????

            To her credit, Cynthia Ward put a lot of blood sweat and tears into public schools, which is more than can be said about her attorney.

            • WIC,

              “The Fact is: Jose Moreno did a TERRIBLE job as a school board member”

              At best that can only be an opinion. I wonder what it is based on?

              During his tenure on the board the standardized test scores that you are so enamored with went up every year. More importantly he instituted many important programs, most notably the dual immersion language program that is the envy of all of our neighbors and has a waiting list to get in.

              I say the Fact is that Jose did an Amazing job as a school board member!

              • Juan — you are right. Test scores did go up under Dr. Moreno’s leadership. But others are also right that the District is among the worst performing in the county.

          • M.C. – Jose has always advocated for the poor and working class parents of Anaheim. He has seen first had how many amazing programs our schools provide and great work our teachers do. He and many of the rest of us are opposed to the parent revolution group that moves into communities to take over schools. Sure if they sift out the English learners and special ed students, standardized scores will go up. We have seen that at Oxford Academy – the teaching is of the same quality at Oxford as it is at Sycamore Junior High…I really believe you get this, but choose to ignore it because you want to stay on point.

            • Matthew Cunningham

              “Juan” (the name you switched to a few days ago): Parent Revolution had no involvement with the Palm Lane School parent trigger movement – although the union activists also always tried to pin it on that group, as well.

              Did you meet any of the Palm Lane parents? Many of them spoke little or no English. There wasn’t any cherry picking going on.

              “I really believe you get this, but choose to ignore it because you want to stay on point.”

              Wrong, but more likely applicable to you.

            • The poor you are speaking of self inflict poverty by having to many children then not accepting responsibility for them and allowing them to become gang members and graffiti vandals. Jose Moreno is a socialist FREELOADER!!!

  6. Interesting how things tend to pivot back to your favorite boogie man…Jose Moreno. I agree with Mr. Harpoon it will be difficult to elect Dr. Moreno because he will raise little money next to Jordan. The essence of the question is where is Jordan going to get the money and what do they expect for it?

    That is exactly the point senior Tomas was making.

    Matt has very often said that teacher union money is influencing school board trustees in Anaheim. I would respectfully ask which ones? How much money and what has that got them.

    When it comes to the three amigos (BMK) on the city council we can all see the paper trail of hundreds of thousands of dollars funneled into their campaigns. And over one million in smear campaigns against Dr. Moreno.

    One must ask why?

    hmm. 158 million welfare to rich hotel owner, attempts to give away city property worth millions for $1 to Arte and of course a preemptive strike against any possible gate tax at Disneyland.

    Yes the investments have paid off very handsomely in the past, and I’m sure they will spare no expense this time around either..

    Hey, look at it this was Matt – looks like more money for you!

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