Prop 13 survives another neutering

Sept. 5, 2012

Katy Grimes: Without fanfare, or headlines, the latest attempt to neuter Proposition 13 failed to pass the Assembly. Property owners probably don’t know how close it was.

43 Democrats voted in favor of of removing the required two-thirds vote threshold to be able to pass tax measures easier, and hoped to put the measure on the ballot.

Why is Prop 13 always under assault?

Prop 13, the 1978 property tax-cut measure, which set property taxes at a uniform 1 percent throughout the state, and limits tax increases to no more than 2 percent a year, has survived biweekly assaults since it was first passed by voters. But it’s not voters and property owners pushing to make changes to the law.

Prior to 1978, there were no caps on ad valorem increases on the market value of a home. But when reassessments resulted in massive jumps of 50 to 100 percent in property tax bills in just one year, voters were outraged. Prop 13 was born and easily passed.

Property taxes became predictable and affordable.

But California is a permanently broke state, largely due to lack of accountability of public officials, gross mismanagement, misplaced priorities, wild government spending on non-essentials, and outrageous entitlement programs.

Because Californians cannot trust the state’s politicians, the last eight attempts to raise taxes have been defeated by voters.

But that never stops the politicians from trying…

ACA 18

The latest attempt, Assembly Constitutional Resolution 18,  would have lowered the existing two-thirds vote threshold for property tax increases to a majority vote. This was ostensibly “to fund various local public safety facilities and improvements.”

Yeah right.

ACA 18 would have allowed for the “imposition, extension, or increase of a parcel tax on real property by a city, county, or special district, for the purpose of funding the maintenance or improvement of fire protection services or police protection services, or both, by approval of a majority of the voters in the city, county, or special district voting on the proposition,” the bill analysis states.

“Beyond being a very regressive property tax increase, this would also serve to fundamentally change Proposition 13 if approved,” analysis states.

“It should be the will of the majority in communities to raise revenue,” said Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland, the bill’s author. Swanson, the former Chief of Staff  to Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and 25 year District Director to former Congressman Ron Dellums, never met a tax he didn’t like.

“This is just making it easier to raise taxes, and is not helping families,” replied Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinor. “Homeowners are still paying property taxes and struggling to survive. We already have enough tax revenue.”

“If this was about public safety, then yesterday we wouldn’t have given California drivers licenses to illegal aliens,” said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, on Friday, the last day of the legislative session. “In light of cities being on the verge of bankruptcy because of public contracts, I oppose weakening Prop 13.”

A few more of the more prominent attempts to neuter Prop 13, are listed in the bill analysis: “Lowering the constitutional vote threshold for special taxes and bond indebtedness has been tried several times in past years. ACA 7 (Nation) of 2005, would have lowered the constitutional vote requirement from two-thirds to 55 percent for any special tax. ACA 10 (Feuer) of 2008, would have created an additional exception to the 1 percent ad valorem property tax for transportation projects with 55 percent voter approval. There were several measures introduced in the 2009-10 session that would have revised  constitutional voting thresholds for different purposes, including ACA 10 (Torlakson), ACA 15 (Arambula), SCA 12 (Kehoe), ACA 9 (Huffman), and SCA 6 (Simitian), none of which were enacted.”

And for that, we can be grateful.

“We are in a crisis,” Swanson said. “We don’t have the revenue to respond to this crisis.”

It’s too bad that Swanson never realized that the taxable people of California don’t have the revenue to deal with the state government-created crisis either.

Expect to see this bill once again next session, but wearing a new disguise, and authored by another legislator–Swanson is termed out.

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