Editorial: Getting around Prop. 13
One would hope that the Proposition 30 tax increases passed by voters would have sated the California Legislature's appetite for additional revenue. But proposals are already circulating for potential new tax increases in this new year. Legislators would be better advised to see how much they collect from Prop. 30 before pursuing additional monies from Californians.
Proposals are focusing on Prop. 13, the landmark 1978 tax-limitation measure that has undergirded the state's prosperity since then. Prop. 13 limited property taxes to 1 percent of assessed value plus annual increases of up to 2 percent of the tax bill. When a property changes ownership, the new owner pays 1 percent of the newly assessed value.
Critically, Prop. 13 also requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature for increasing state taxes, and that new or increased local taxes be approved by voters.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, some proponents of further tax increases are citing a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, which found that 64 percent of Californians still back Prop. 13. However, 57 percent now would favor loosening protections on commercial property. Under such a "split roll," homeowners would retain the current Prop. 13 formula, but commercial property would be assessed at a higher rate.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, has introduced such "split roll" changes in the past, and plans to do so again this year.
Prop. 13 also is being potentially undermined by two other proposals, Jon Coupal told us; he's the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, is pushing SCA 3, legislation to drop the threshold for passing local parcel taxes for schools to 55 percent from two-thirds. "This would open up a floodgate of new taxes," Mr. Coupal said.
The other is SCA 7, by state Sen. Louis Wolk, D-Vacaville, which would drop to 55 percent from two-thirds the threshold for approving local parcel taxes for libraries.
"Instead of trying to reduce the tax burden and get people back to work, all they talk about is the next way to raise taxes," Lew Uhler told us; he's the president of the Roseville-based National Tax-Limitation Committee.
California's economy has been gradually improving. Economic recovery is delicate, and legislators would best serve residents of the Golden State by taking tax increases off the table, at the very least during this period of fragile economic progress.