OC Register Uncovers Potential Reason Behind Murray’s Anti-Tax Proposal

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An Anaheim councilwoman’s proposal that would make it harder to pass new taxes coincides with the ending of a prohibition on a possible tax on admission to Disneyland and other venues, according to reporting by the Orange County Register’s Art Marroquin.

The finding bolsters arguments from critics who say that Councilwoman Kris Murray’s measure — which would need to be passed by the voters in the 2016 general election — is really about preventing a future council from passing a gate tax that would be targeted at Disneyland and raise significant revenue for city coffers.

Murray’s proposal would increase the number of City Council votes it takes to place a tax measure on the ballot from a simple majority to two-thirds. The council will also be expanding by two seats that year, which means it will take votes from at least five council members to allow a tax measure on the ballot.

According to the Register article, the city signed a bonds deal with Disney worth over $500 million to finance infrastructure improvements that paved the way for the California Adventure theme park, Downtown Disney, a convention center expansion and the Grand Californian Hotel.

But as part of that deal, the city agreed not to impose an admissions tax, a prohibition that extends through June, 2016, the same year that voters are going to decide on Murray’s proposal.

Murray claims that the timing was a coincidence, and that her measure is only about protecting residents from new taxes, according to the Register.

As the newspaper points out, Disney spent hundreds of thousands of dollars the last election promoting Murray’s candidacy.

From the article:

As a condition to get the park built, the City Council in 1996 unanimously agreed to pay up to $546 million for a new parking garage on Disney property, repaved streets, landscaping and renovated utilities. The work was to be funded by $395 million from city bonds underwritten by Disney, along with federal, state and county transportation funds.

Another condition was that the city agreed not to levy an entertainment tax on tickets sold at either of the Disney theme parks through June 30, 2016. If a ticket tax was adopted for entertainment venues in the city, the contract said all the money collected at the theme parks would be reimbursed to Disney until the deal expires.

The entertainment tax ban originally was intended to last forever, said Mayor Tom Tait, who sat on the council in 1996. Tait said that he persuaded his colleagues and Disney to reduce the term to 20 years.

“It was a pragmatic decision because there was a big benefit to fixing up the resort area,” Tait said. “The overall good of the agreement was outweighed by the objectionable parts.”

Several cities across the state, including Inglewood, Pasadena and San Francisco, levy admission taxes.

The notion of charging admission taxes to Disneyland has been debated for decades.

A proposed 5 percent tax on Anaheim’s entertainment venues gained momentum in 1975, but the City Council changed course after facing heavy opposition from Disneyland and the Angels.

The idea came up again in 1991, when Anaheim officials suggested that revenue generated by an admissions tax could help pay for building Disney’s second theme park.

At the time, Disney officials threatened to kill the project if a tax was imposed.

Disney continues to oppose taxes based on ticket sales, said Disneyland spokeswoman Suzi Brown.

“One of the key reasons that Anaheim has been such a success story is due to its policies and initiatives that encourage investment in the city and allow businesses to grow,” Brown said. “It is important that those practices continue to ensure the ongoing vitality of a vibrant community fueled by a strong economy.”

Moreno, who lost a bid for the City Council in November, said he found it “suspicious” that Murray wants to make it more difficult to enact new taxes in Anaheim just as the agreement between the city and Disney is about to end.

“We really have to wonder where this idea is coming from and how she came up with it,” Moreno said.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

  • mcunningham

    There are a few problems with this theory about this “potential” reason for Councilwoman Murray’s proposal that has been “uncovered.”

    First and foremost, it isn’t true. I’ve talked to Kris Murray about this proposal several times. It is a very good, very conservative policy idea. And it has nothing to do with the expiration of the ban on an admission tax that expires in June 2016.

    I realize there are those who prefer their conspiracy fantasies to the truth, but little can be done for them. The conspiratorial heart wants what it wants.

    Furthermore, Murray’s charter amendment won’t be voted on until five months AFTER the ban expires; there will be a five month window in which an admissions tax could be placed on the ballot by a simple majority. If this really was driven by the impending expiration of that provision, the charter amendment would have been introduced in 2013 or early 2014 (when Mayor Tait had no council allies) and placed before the more conservative and Republican electorate that voted in November 2014. It would have passed easily, and the possibility of an admissions tax – or any new city tax — being enacted would be significantly reduced forevermore. And it would have been a handy campaign issue for Murray and Eastman to run on, to boot.

    Also, what no one has pointed out is the city council cannot impose an admissions tax only on Disney. It would have to cover ever entertainment venue in the city.

    Furthermore, such a tax isn’t paid by Disneyland or the Angels or the House of Blues or whoever. It is paid by the customer. Disneyland and other venues simply collect the tax for the government.

    There is a long, healthy tradition in America of requiring a high-threshold before our elected representatives can act on matters of grave importance. A two-thirds majority of the U.S. Senate is required to convict an impeached President. Constitutional amendments must be approved by a two-thirds vote of Congress and ratified by three-fourths of state legislatures.

    Here in California, city councils in general law cities cannot only place a tax before voters by a two-thirds majority. Murray’s amendment simply brings Anaheim into sync with that standard.

    Councilmembers in Irvine, Newport Beach and Placentia have embraced this idea and are moving to put it on the ballot in their cities. Are they part of the big conspiracy, too?

    The notion this charter amendment is tied to a 1996 agreement between Anaheim and Disneyland can’t survive a few minutes of informed, critical thinking.

    • Cynthia Ward

      “There is a long, healthy tradition in America of requiring a high-threshold before our elected representatives can act on matters of grave importance.” and yet your friends approve bonds with NO input from the taxpayers forced to cover the shortfall from the General Fund in years tourism does not hit that magic mark of “expected revenues.” I don’t think anyone objects to the proposal, we object to the hypocrisy of the one who brought it forward.

      “Here in California, city councils in general law cities cannot only place a tax before voters by a two-thirds majority. Murray’s amendment simply brings Anaheim into sync with that standard.”

      Hey, let’s bring Anaheim’s other issues into line with General Law cities, and require an actual finding of real benefits to the public in avoiding “gift of public funds” instead of the Charter law provision in which intangible benefits may be named by elected leaders without financial compensation, which is how we get someone claiming that the warm fuzzy feeling Anaheim gets from hosting a sports team named for another community is somehow equal to the massive gift of public real estate to the team’s owner. Yeah, we could try that, what do you think?

      • mcunningham

        Actually, you have been objecting to Kris Murray’s charter proposal, Cynthia. But thanks for making it abundantly clear your criticism and opposition is driven by personal dislike, rather than principles.

        • Cynthia Ward

          Mr. Cunningham,

          I don’t object to Murray’s proposal because I don’t like Murray, I dislike Murray because she keeps making these bizarre decisions that are bad for the community, based on wishful thinking in funding projections, with her only interest being that of the special insiders’ club she answers to. I remind you that I am not the one here who is obligated to comply with the Political Reform Act to make decisions without bias, acting with “disinterested zeal” in the benefit of the public without thought to the benefit of myself or my friends. So I get to have an opinion on this, while Murray is not supposed to beyond wanting what is best for ALL of Anaheim.

          As Tait and Vanderbilt both inquired about, this decisions WILL affect Anaheim’s bond ratings, similar actions HAVE affected Anaheim’s bond ratings in the past, including just before the ’97 Disney expansion bonds were sold.

          So on April 7, will Debbie Moreno come back claiming this does not affect bond ratings despite it being historically proven that it DOES? Or will Murray claim that is a small price to pay in exchange for protecting Anaheim’s working poor from paying an additional dollar on Disney tickets they are not buying anyway? This is a hypocritical claim when Disney has tripled its ticket price since the last time it objected to actually contributing to the General Fund.

          I don’t think we are anywhere near being able to make a judgement call on this issue, because the first step is to get the spin and rhetoric out of the way and be honest with each others, and that means being up front about exactly what it is that Murray is trying to accomplish here. And if what she wants is so critical, then why was it not proposed during the Charter Review when she had the chance?

          • David Zenger

            “And if what she wants is so critical, then why was it not proposed during the Charter Review when she had the chance?”

            Cynthia, I think the answer to that is simple. It has become critical; or, as your interlocutor said “grave” (just think about what that really means!).

            Either Disney overlooked this issue, or as is more likely, they waited until after the egregious Murray was safely re-elected. As I noted above, Murray has had her pink little hands quite full the past couple of years practicing a touching rendition of Nearer My God to Thee with the Kleptocracy Maritime Band.

            Glub, glub, glub.

          • David Zenger

            Please note, also the idiocy of the claim “Disney won’t pay it, guests will” a statement at odds with the behavior of every single corporation and trade association in the free world when it comes to regulation and taxation.

      • David Zenger

        Cynthia, you will not get a straight answer from somebody who thinks the impeachment of a President or a Constitutional Amendment is on par with a gate tax at Disneyland. Well, maybe in the hermetically sealed world of PringleCorp that is true; I guess it depends who is writing the checks that puts the Hamburger Helper on the table.

        I’m sure you know that the reason Murray didn’t propose this before was because district elections were still being opposed vigorously by the Kleptocracy and Murray was running for reelection. It just wouldn’t do to have Murray revealed as too big a tool of DisneyCorp, now would it? She was also running around like an unhinged chicken clucking about the great Angels deal she just didn’t have the courage to consummate.

        Kris Murray is a busy little bee, alright. Too bad she can’t explain why there’s no honey in the hive and we have to FINANCE street work.

  • David Zenger

    “We really have to wonder where this idea is coming from and how she came up with it,” Moreno said.

    Um, no we don’t.

  • Cynthia Ward

    Wait. So in 1996 it was OK with DIsney to boost the bed tax to 15%, using 20% of that to repay the bonds for infrastructure Disney benefits from. Within the last few years we layered on the 2% ATID which makes Anaheim’s bed taxes some of the highest in the nation at 17%, and THAT was not seen as the business killer. But let a fee be charged to Disney, who otherwise contributes NOT A NICKEL to the General Fund from sales, property, or TOT on California Adventure, Downtown Disney or Grand Californian, and they go bonkers. Keep in mind when the $1 per person tax was proposed (by public safety unions who understood the deal being inked in ’96 would leave very little pie for them to divide later) that $1 per person was on a $33 ticket. Today the ticket is $99. So Disney thinks a fee on tickets is a deal breaker, but they can keep jacking up their prices to their own benefit and it is OK? I love Disney the image. I detest the blatant corporate greed that we see from Disney the machine. They have ben siphoning off taxpayers for too long, we bought them the Mickey and Friends parking structure and they pocket the $17 per car after a nominal rent payment that amounts to roughly ONE DAY’S parking. We have been slowly and quietly building infrastructure projects to enable their third gate while disguising them as “public works projects” for about a decade (anyone notice where Gene Autry Way goes? Any of my old SOAR buddies notice whose property it CUTS THROUGH?) I joined way back when I believed in Supporting Our Anaheim Resort, I quit when I discovered it was really SUBSIDIZE Our Anaheim Resort.

    • David Zenger

      “SUBSIDIZE Our Anaheim Resort.”

      I see what you did there. Funny how Save has transmogrified into Support and now Subsidize.

      • Philmore

        My guess was always “Shaft Other Anaheim Residents”, consistent with the knowledge that Anaheim’s economic elite share the same 2-class view of taxes as elsewhere – either AVOIDABLE, or REBATEable and buy their influence accordingly. The rest of us are on our own.

        • David Zenger

          That, Sir, is the fundamental nature of the Kleptocracy. Or, as it is also known locally, the Smash ‘N Grab Club.

          Whenever you hear them bleat about “public/private partnerships” you can bet that soon you will be asked to bend over and grab your ankles.