By Jim Sanders
Published: Monday, Mar. 18, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 1A

California’s legislative leaders vowed to act with austerity after voters passed billions of dollars in tax hikes last November.

More than two dozen bills introduced in the current session, however, take aim at Californians’ pocketbooks.

Taxes, fees or other charges are proposed for soda pop and sweet tea drinkers, motorists, gun owners and people who frequent strip clubs, buy prepaid cellular phone minutes, or use paper or plastic shopping bags.

Businesses are targeted by proposals ranging from an oil severance tax to a manufacturers fee for mattress recycling, and a crackdown on firms that avoid property tax reassessments after ownership changes.

“It doesn’t surprise us at all,” Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said of the numerous bills. “Our elected political class has an insatiable appetite for even more money.”

Added Republican Assemblywoman Shannon Grove of Bakersfield: “Did you ever really expect them to keep their word about fiscal restraint?”

Democrats, who are carrying almost all of the bills, are not using their newly won supermajority to push for sales, income or other across-the-board tax hikes. They are targeting narrower groups instead, attempting to alter what they consider harmful habits or bolster services.

Legislative leaders say there’s a big difference between crafting a revenue-raising bill and winning legislative approval and Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg characterizes the process as a giant funnel of ideas, many of which fall by the wayside without becoming law, said Mark Hedlund, Steinberg’s spokesman.

“He does not see 2013 as being a year to be looking toward more taxes,” Hedlund said.

Some bills would impose a new fee: to build a statewide firearms ownership database, for example, or impose an ignition interlock mandate on convicted drunken drivers.

Other measures would not cost Californians more immediately, but they would extend an existing fee, costing more in the long run.

Assembly Bill 8 would provide an eight-year extension, from 2016 to 2024, for pollution-fighting fees charged as part of vehicle registration.

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