An 800-year-old argument against CA's cap and trade tax


No taxation without consent.  That was one of the landmark precepts and precedents for liberty that was established eight centuries ago this week, when England’s barons forced a resentful King John to sign the Magna Carta.

My op-ed in today’s Orange County Register describes how PLF is championing this ancient principle of taxpayers’ rights in one of our current high-profile cases: our challenge to California’s cap and trade auction regulation.

On behalf of a broad coalition of businesses, taxpayer organizations, and individuals, we’re targeting an oppressive and voracious revenue-raising machine.  The cap and trade auction regulation forces businesses with major carbon dioxide emissions to bid for “carbon credits” if they don’t want to be forced to shut their doors and send their employees home.

Already vacuuming billions of dollars out of the economy and into government coffers, these auctions clearly amount to taxation, as defined by California case law.

But the program was foisted on us without proper consent.  Instead of winning 2/3 majorities in the California Senate and Assembly, as the state constitution requires for new taxes, the scheme was concocted by the unelected California Air Resources Board.

Even if you buy CARB’s dubious claim that the agency was merely implementing AB 32 (the 2006 legislation ordering deep cuts in carbon outputs), AB 32 didn’t pass by supermajorities — so the auction tax is still unconstitutional.

It was Proposition 13 that gave us the supermajority rule.  By emphasizing taxation-by-consensus — requiring buy-in from a broad spectrum of the community before taxes can be raised — it follows in Magna Carta’s spirit.  The “Great Charter” required more than mere majority approval for royal financial demands.  Each baron had to consent individually to any payment he made.

PLF’s lawsuit is before the California Third District Court of Appeal.  As my op-ed notes, the court has an opportunity to celebrate Magna Carta’s 800th birthday in a uniquely meaningful, freedom-enhancing way: By consigning the onerous cap and trade tax to the dustbin of history — leaving the bureaucrats at CARB to grumble like King John back in 1215.