FLASHBACK: June 17, 1978The June 6th Tax Rebellion

That explosion that erupted against property taxes in California overshadowed other election events on June 6, and rightly so. For what the Californians did in “acting irresponsibly” by slashing property taxes $7 billion was to send a powerful message to the nation’s politicians.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who campaigned vigorously against Proposition 13, known as the Jarvis-Gann amendment, has already taken heed and now talks as if he invented it. “There will be no increase in taxes,” he said following its passage. “The people have sent a message to all of us. The vote is not partisan. It comes from liberals, conservatives, moderates, Republicans and Democrats.” But those leaders identified with it were conservatives, including former Police Chief Ed Davis, ex-Gov. Ronald Reagan, economists Milton Friedman and Neil Jacoby, and Howard Jarvis himself.

Those most vehemently opposed to it were those who feed at the public trough, including officials of the public employee unions and the National Education Association. Indeed, such champions of government spending as Mayor George Moscone of San Francisco suspended the city charter, comparing Proposition 13 to the “Great Earthquake” that devastated his city in 1906.

Despite the howls of protest, however, there is no reason the politicians can’t implement the desire of the voters in a wholly reasonable way.

Jarvis, the 75-year-old sparkplug behind the measure, exulted in victory: “Tonight we know how our forefathers felt as they hurled crates of English tea into Boston harbor.” Jarvis maintained the overwhelming 2-to-1 triumph signaled a “new revolution” against politicians and bureaucrats who “spend, spend, spend.” Those who voted for it, he said, “aren’t to be trifled with. To ignore us will be political suicide.”

Few politicians seemed to be falling on their swords. Brown has hopped aboard the anti-tax bandwagon. President Carter says he’s all in tune with what’s happening (not mentioning that the programs he’s pushing for — even with his proposed tax cut — will burden the average taxpayer more than he is being burdened at present.) Rep. John Brademas (D.-Ind.), the assistant House leader for the Democrats, who has never shrunk from spending federal money, says the California result has “only reinforced the desire of President Carter and a number of others” to have a major tax reduction this year. Even House Majority Leader Tip O’Neill (D.-Mass.), another big spender, suggested the results might clearly have an impact on congressional appropriation measures.

Meanwhile organizations in some 28 states or so seem determined to enact a tax-rollback or limitation, including those in Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho and Oregon.

Whether the Jarvis-Gann amendment is a particularly good amendment is, of course, not the point. What is the point is that the populace is sick to death of taxes and inflation, both of which feed upon each other. But this sense of outrage, while most resoundingly expressed in the Golden State, where tax assessments have been soaring, was also evidenced elsewhere. Consider, for instance:

*Given virtually no chance against Sen. Clifford Case (R.-N.J.) in the Republican senatorial primary held last week, Jeff Bell, a 34-year-old ex-Reagan aide, triumphed over the veteran GOP liberal, largely because of his stand on tax reform. He championed tax cuts (including the Kemp-Roth plan), whereas Case opposed them. Polls showed that Bell’s position on taxes was a key to his win.

*In Ohio, voters rejected nearly 60 per cent of the 198 school levy and bond issues on the ballot, thus setting the stage for possible school closings in Ohio this fall. Among the districts where new levies were defeated were Cleveland, the state’s largest, and Columbus.

*In the Republican state convention in Virginia, Dick Obenshain, an out and out conservative, won the GOP Senate nomination and is expected to win in the fall. Obenshain campaigned for the nomination on the theme of tax reduction, and says he plans to champion the Kemp-Roth tax-reform measure as a major part of his fall campaign.

*Iowa Lt. Gov. Roger Jepsen easily won the Republican senatorial nomination against Maurice Van Nostrand, who assailed Jepsen for his conservative stands on various issues. Jepsen, who will face Sen. Dick Clark (D.) in the fall, geared a major part of his campaign on the economic issue, coming out for Kemp-Roth and against the Carter energy taxes.

As Time magazine noted in a recent tax revolt story, virtually to a man politicians are “preaching fiscal restraint this year.”

June 6, then, was a major statement by a whale of a lot of agitated taxpayers throughout the country. The course open for conservative activists now is to get involved in those tax-limitation drives in their home states and/or support those candidates — like Bell, Obenshain and Jepsen — who will pay more than lip-service to tax-cut legislation once they make it to Washington. The climate for conservative successes in the political field has never been better.