<b>DIVIDED:</b>  South County supervisors Janet Wolf, Salud Carbajal, and Doreen Farr made all the decisions Monday on the proposed oil tax, as their colleagues, Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino ​— ​who both teleconferenced into the meeting ​— ​made their opposition known early.

Paul Wellman

DIVIDED: South County supervisors Janet Wolf, Salud Carbajal, and Doreen Farr made all the decisions Monday on the proposed oil tax, as their colleagues, Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino ​— ​who both teleconferenced into the meeting ​— ​made their opposition known early.

County Talks Oil Tax

Proposed $1-Per-Barrel Fee Headed for June Ballot?

Thursday, December 19, 2013
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Although the Board of Supervisors’ divided decision Monday to move forward with its consideration of a $1-per-barrel tax on onshore oil producers didn’t officially place the item on next summer’s ballot, the direction of the conversation and the dynamic among the supervisors suggests the resolution could, indeed, be put before voters in June with implications far and wide.

If the proposal makes it to the ballot and is approved by 66 percent of voters, the revenue would fill county coffers to the tune of more than $3 million a year. And if the tax were enacted, it would make Santa Barbara County the first of California’s 58 counties to impose such a fee. It would even beat the state to the punch as a new statewide measure for the November election was proposed just this week. But the tax’s success or failure in the voting booths ​— ​as well as its effects on the months of campaigning leading up to the June election ​— ​will also loom large in area politics, with repercussions for an already-heated 2nd District race and an already-strained relationship between North and South County.

The 3-2 vote in favor of the tax split along north-south lines, with 4th and 5th District supervisors Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino voicing their opposition early and then remaining largely silent for the remainder of the meeting. Adam, who called the county “famous for being business-unfriendly” and the proposed tax a “rush job,” worried about the tax’s effect on oil-industry employees. Lavagnino said that he didn’t like the idea of hurting one of his district’s two main job fields ​— ​oil and agriculture ​— ​and that he therefore didn’t want to go over the proposed tax’s details, as doing so would be akin to “choosing options on a new car you don’t want to buy in the first place.”

But the three South County supervisors chugged right along, deciding, among other things, how the ballot measure would be classified and where the tax’s revenues would be funneled. The tax would be a so-called special tax, meaning it would only require a 3-2 vote from the supervisors to make the ballot, a two-thirds vote from the public to become law, and it names the specific county departments ​— ​fire, parks, and libraries ​— ​that would receive the money. If approved, the tax would impose a $1-per-barrel fee on oil companies (with an indexed tax rate for possible inflation) but exclude wells that produce five or fewer barrels per day. According to a recent Grand Jury report on oil taxation ​— ​which recommended the supervisors’ approval of such a ballot measure ​— ​nearly 3.4 million barrels of oil were extracted in 2012.

“I think this is a positive step. My mantra would be: Let the voters decide,” said 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf on Monday. Wolf, whose seat is being challenged by Goleta City Councilmember Roger Aceves, further defended her position Tuesday morning. “In my mind, it’s a common-sense, commonly utilized business tax on an industry,” she said. “What wasn’t really said yesterday is that this is a local tax that stays here locally.”

Aceves, when asked what he thought of the board’s decision, said he would have preferred to see polling done to assess public opinion and called the two-thirds majority needed from voters “an uphill battle.” He also took issue with the measure’s likely timing, saying that the six months until June was a “short window” to educate the public about the measure.

For a discussion on energy, the public turnout for Monday’s meeting was fairly low with more speakers opposed to the tax than not. (Santa Maria Energy expressed its distaste for the tax in a statement released Tuesday.) Even Linda Krop, an attorney for the Environmental Defense Center, showed lukewarm feelings for the measure, expressing concerns that it could persuade county planning agencies to approve future drilling projects because of the expected tax revenues.

The county has considered such a tax before, most recently in February 2012; that discussion didn’t garner enough votes. The state, too, has examined the idea, even putting it before voters in 2006 with Proposition 87, which failed due largely to a $100-million opposition campaign waged by the oil industry. Although a few Los Angeles–area cities have imposed an extraction tax — but none as high as $1 per barrel — Santa Barbara County’s proposed measure would likely encounter just as much oil-industry resistance as Prop. 87, and the campaign, especially with its so-far ambivalent support from environmental groups, could turn into a David-versus-Goliath battle.

The proposed initiative may also address offshore-oil projects that are within three miles of shore, but the three supervisors said they needed more time to think about including such stipulations. The item will come back to the board on January 21, with a possible vote to place it on the ballot scheduled for February 4


Independent Discussion Guidelines

When the county depends on more taxes to support their unsustainable personnel obligations they awarded to their union member supporters, whatcha gonna do. Throw their environmental supporters under the bus, or their union supporters under the bus? Supervisors will earn their salaries on this one. So will we, if they get the right answer.

(Answer: Dedicate all oil tax revenues to county infrastructure repair, maintenance and improvements; and not to any form of employee salaries, benefits or pensions.)

foofighter (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 8:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I hope the county spends millions to fight this and looses the battle.

borr7676 (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 10:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If we ended subsidies on this industry, wouldn't that be a lot more than this pittance of a tax? Oh how government loves pretzels.

spacey (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 1:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The oil miners should cough up a chunk to the local community that is taking the hit on their environment. Of course, a nice sales tax on Wall Street gambling transactions would be great too...Lois, I would like to see you talk that one up!

sbindyreader (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 11:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I love foofighter's proposal.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
December 20, 2013 at 10:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

spacey nailed this one for a change.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
December 20, 2013 at 11:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Ayn Rand happily collected Social Security, just sharin'.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 20, 2013 at 2:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

How much did Ayn Rand put into SS and how much did she collect?

loonpt (anonymous profile)
December 20, 2013 at 3:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Who knows but why deny others the same opp?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 20, 2013 at 3:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Let's say instead of food, water and shelter life required red, green, yellow and blue tokens. Some people go out and mine yellow tokens, some people mine green tokens, some blue and some red. At the end of the day the people who mine the blue tokens go and put most of them in a machine and in return they get some red, green and yellow tokens. Those who mine yellow tokens put most of them in the machine and in return get some green, red and blue tokens...and so on..

Some people don't mine any tokens, but they want to go up to the machine and get their daily allotment of tokens and others in the community feel sorry for them and so they get the machine operator to take 1 of 10 of everybody's tokens for those who don't have any. Most people are ok with this.

Soon some people decide to stop mining tokens as they would prefer to have more leisure time so they stop mining tokens. Suddenly the machine operator realizes that a problem is arising where the machine needs to take more of people's tokens in order to give everybody their allotment. The problem is the machine operator knows people will start complaining if they have to give up much more tokens. So the machine operator decides to solve the problem by giving out colored paper token receipts. This way they can make copies of tokens that don't exist out of thin air and loan them out to the rich people to start businesses, middle class gets loans to buy cars and houses and the poor get loans just to survive. The machine operator collects interest on these loans even though they just made them up out of thin air. At first everybody is ok with all this - people still accept the receipts for payment, all of the poor get their minimal allotment of tokens and the people mining tokens seemingly only have to give up 10%.

Then their energy bills arrive and instead of paying 3 red tokens a month for energy people suddenly are paying 5 and wondering why when they used the same amount of energy. They go to the grocery store and end up spending 10 yellow tokens when they used to only spend 7. A young couple wants to buy a nice house but instead of paying 500 tokens for a 2 bedroom it costs 850. People like foofighter are still hangin tough, he's really good at mining tokens, but those who were living a more modest lifestyle before suddenly find that they can't afford what they once could.


loonpt (anonymous profile)
December 20, 2013 at 5:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

People begin to go into debt and owe a lot of money to the machine operator. The machine operator continually trades all of their paper receipts they get for real tokens, and they have a collection of billions of tokens, more than half of all the tokens in existence buried up in the hills. Meanwhile everybody else is trading around worthless paper receipts. People go to the machine operator and ask to trade their receipts for tokens and the machine operator says, "Nope, sorry, you will have to go to a token trader and get some from them, I no longer trade tokens for the receipts". They go to a token trader and find out it costs almost 2 token receipts to get one token.

It's not a perfect analogy and there is a lot more to it, but the point is that our current system does all of this stuff very deceptively and dishonestly. It brings is into massive debt, funds wars and enriches the elite.

If we really want to help poor people, we will reform our monetary system. I'm not saying stop SS payments tomorrow, I'd end the overseas wars and all of the corporate subsidies first and foremost, but it is important to see how all of the various government programs, even the well intended ones end up working against the working class and poor and cause most of the financial problems we face today due to our monetary system.

To understand more, I'd recommend this short film:

loonpt (anonymous profile)
December 20, 2013 at 5:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

RE: Ayn Rand from "Classically Liberal" blog:

…….in 1966 Rand's Objectivist Newsletter said that not collecting from programs that one is forced to finance would be wrong.

It said:
...the victims, who opposed such laws, have a clear right to any refund of their own money—and they would not advance the cause of freedom if they left their money unclaimed, for the benefit of the welfare-state administration.


This article claims that Rand and her husband collected a grand total of around $14,000 in Social Security between the years of 1974 and 1982. This would be far under the amount of Social Security taxes that Rand was required to pay in during her lifetime even if we don't include any income for Frank O'Connor. Social Security taxes were first collected in 1937, well before her first best-seller in 1943, The Fountainhead.

She earned substantial amounts of money during the 40s, 50s and 60s and would have paid substantial amounts in social security payments because she was self-employed as an author. In other words, the $14,000 she and Frank got back would have been a small percentage of the amount she paid in. (I am assuming the author of that piece is telling the truth about the $14,000, which given his record of truthfulness, is a big assumption on my part.)

foofighter (anonymous profile)
December 20, 2013 at 10:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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