Tax-weary locals boost ‘tea party’ turnout

Signs of protest
By: From Gold Country News Service and The Associated Press
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Donna Bell attended her first protest Wednesday. The Auburn resident was one of thousands across the country who took part in tax day “tea parties” to protest excessive government spending. Bell, 68, rode one of two chartered buses from Auburn to the Sacramento tea party. “It was awesome. It was a sea of people,” she said. “There were Republicans and Democrats and Independents, all kinds of people.” Armed with a sign that read “TEA: Taxed (more than) Enough Already” on one side and “We the People, not You the Government” on the other, Bell joined what she estimated to be 5,000 people at the steps of the Capitol. She said it was a positive gathering, devoid of the “vitriol” protests can be known for. “I think the thing that impressed me the most is, I would say, probably 95 percent of the people had never done anything like this before,” she said. “It was all new to them. It wasn’t professional protesters, just we the people.” Grassroots protesters also held similar, but smaller gatherings in Placer County. Holding signs and shouting slogans, about 175 protesters assembled at a Lincoln tea party to oppose what they said is ever-increasing taxation without proper representation. The protesters held signs that stated, “Born free, taxed to death,” “When taxes rise freedom dies” and “Owe taxes? Required for cabinet post.” “It’s not a Republican thing, and it’s not a Democrat thing. This is an American thing,” said Bud Duncan, a Vietnam veteran and Lincoln resident. “We’re tired of supporting people who won’t go out and work. You can only dig so deep in the well. We can’t afford this.” More than 50 cities in California took part in Wednesday’s event and many more participated across the nation, said Lincoln resident Claire Magid, who organized the Lincoln protest. “It allows the tax-paying public to vent their anger and dismay over the fact that we’ve had billions and now trillions of our tax dollars spent on these bailouts,” Magid said. Lincoln resident Jeff Marrs took the opportunity to voice his discontent and teach his daughters, Natalie and Sami, about freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. “I’m not happy with them spending our money the way they are,” Marrs said. Angry, frustrated and saying they’re overtaxed, nearly three dozen people also turned out Wednesday in front of the Roseville City Hall on Vernon Street to protest what they called Washington’s tax-and-spend ways. “I just want to stand up and tell Obama we’ve had enough,” said Sarah Chaffin of Sun City Roseville. “Enough of them raising our taxes and giving banks a stimulus.” “It’s about spending, it’s about earmarks, it’s about putting our country in debt,” said Joanne MacDonnell of El Dorado Hills, who was there with her husband, Richard. “It’s government making these huge expenditures that don’t do anything to stimulate the economy,” Richard MacDonnell said. In Sacramento, the rally at the steps of the Capitol included attacks on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and California lawmakers by a congressman and a son of former President Ronald Reagan. “I knew Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan was not only a friend, but he was my father. And Arnold, you are no Ronald Reagan,” talk show host Michael Reagan said to cheers from a crowd that spilled out from the front of the Capitol. Reagan and other speakers urged the crowd to reject Proposition 1A. The measure on the May 19 special election ballot would create a state spending cap and strengthen a rainy day fund while extending sales and income tax increases the Legislature passed earlier this year to help close a $42 billion budget deficit. The budget package also included $15 billion in cuts to state programs and hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate tax breaks. “My father would say to you, ‘On May 19, go out and please win one again for the Gipper,’” Reagan said. Reagan’s speech relied on a selective reading of history. Before he became president, Ronald Reagan served two terms as California governor in the 1960s and 1970s. One of his first acts upon taking office was to increase taxes. Two Republican state lawmakers who voted for this year’s tax increases even invoked the image of Ronald Reagan to defend their decision, saying he campaigned against higher taxes but then raised them when confronted with political reality. On the Senate floor in February, Republican state Sen. Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria displayed a 1972 photograph showing Reagan signing a bill to increase California taxes. Rep. Tom McClintock, a Republican congressman whose district encompassed Placer County and runs from Sacramento’s northeastern suburbs to the Nevada and Oregon borders, also criticized Proposition 1A and urged the crowd to support an attempt to recall Assemblyman Anthony Adams, R-Hesperia. Adams was among the handful of Republican legislators who supported the February tax increases. “We are going to actively and methodically go after those politicians” who backed the $14 billion in tax hikes, McClintock said. McClintock, 52, has held taxpayer-funded jobs for most of his adult life. He was an aide to a state senator from 1980 to 1982, when he won his first race for the state Assembly. He lost campaigns for Congress in 1992 and state controller in 1994 but was re-elected to the Assembly in 1996. He moved to the state Senate in 2000 and was elected to Congress in 2008. During his last year in the Senate, McClintock was paid the rank-and-file lawmaker salary of $116,208. During his campaign for Congress last year, he was criticized for taking an additional $36,319 in state per diem checks in 2007 despite living in Elk Grove, a Sacramento suburb about 15 miles from the capital. The per diem is designed to cover the expenses of lawmakers who live far from Sacramento and have to maintain two residences. McClintock, who represented a Southern California district in the Legislature, claimed his mother’s home in Thousand Oaks as his district residence, allowing him to collect the extra payments. Wednesday’s demonstration was part of a nationwide protest that organizers called “tea parties,” a reference to the Boston Tea Party. It was timed to coincide with Wednesday’s deadline to file income taxes and was broadcast live by Fox News. Democratic lawmakers held a news conference before the rally started, stressing that California has cut $26.7 billion in spending since 2003, including the $15 billion in cuts made in February. “This Legislature and this governor have not been on a spending spree in the last few years,” said Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, the Santa Rosa Democrat who chairs the Assembly Budget Committee. “We have made substantial cuts.” The two-year budget deal struck in February also contained a long list of tax breaks and credits for corporations and businesses that will cost California’s treasury at least $2.5 billion over the next five years. Auburn Journal news editor Michelle Miller-Carl, Lincoln News Messenger reporter Brandon Darnell and Roseville Press Tribune reporter Nathan Donato-Weinstein contributed to this report.