In the last issue of Pool & Spa News, we reported on two California bills that would levy taxes on a slew of services, pool care among them. In the first bill, the items to be taxed included private lessons of any kind, access to storage facilities, furniture repair, carpet cleaning, and on and on. The second bill would reduce the sales tax, but add a tax to virtually any service performed in the state.
Needless to say, SPEC came out strongly against both pieces of legislation, and spread the word through the trade press and other avenues in an effort to get people in the industry to voice their displeasure.
Also needless to say, neither bill has a strong chance of actually becoming law. To levy a new tax, you need a two-thirds majority vote in the legislature. And with the strong Republican presence there now, I can’t imagine that happening.
So why does it matter then?
Because the laws in California are becoming so unfriendly to business that companies are leaving the state in droves. According to the Orange County Register, in 2011, a total of 254 firms relocated outside California, up from 202 the prior year, and just 51 in 2009. (One of them is the industry’s very own Aquatech.)
But why does that matter if you’re not in California?
Because in researching this column, I Googled “California service tax” and was shocked to find that only two publications had reported on the bills ... and one of them was us. (But, hey, lest you think Californians aren’t interested in the legislative process, there were 267 news stories about an upcoming state bill that would punish teacher-student dating.)
In poking around the media outlets across the country, I saw the same thing, albeit to a lesser extent. There’s a huge bias toward shallow, sensationalistic news stories and little to no information on what our government is doing that could affect all of us directly and immediately.
Even though I’m confident that the service tax won’t pass, I already wrote to the sponsors of both bills stating that not only does their tax hurt small-business owners, it only serves to further grow the already massive underground economy. In addition, I’ll keep an eye out to see whether my state representative votes for it, and cast my own vote in his election accordingly.
Now, more than ever, it’s crucial that each of us pay attention to who’s running the nation on a local level. A presidential election is important for big-picture issues, but how we respond to Iran won’t matter when you’re dealing with an irate customer.