Willie Brown wants to gut Prop. 13

Dec. 10, 2012

By Wayne Lusvardi

Willie Brown just reminded us why in 1990 voters passed term limits largely to move him out of his seat as California Assembly-Speaker-for-Life.

Brown wrote that Prop. 13 should be reformed by “cleverly” by making “a racehorse look like a donkey.” But Brown must take California homeowners and small business persons to be dumb mules.  Everyone knows that you can’t make a racehorse out of a donkey.

Brown switched college majors from mathematics to a degree in political science.  He should have stuck with the numbers.  Reforming Prop. 13, the 1978 tax limitation measure, won’t favorably change the mathematics of property taxation for government. To the contrary, it is likely to make it worse. Even if Prop. 13 was reformed, it would likely result in lower property tax revenues for public schools and cities in a recession than if it was left alone.

In California, 97 percent of businesses are small businesses.  They are being hammered with a 50 percent increase in the lowest-tier of electric rates from AB 32, 15 percent higher water rates, new storm water taxes in Los Angeles County and an Obamacare surcharge of $5,000 to $8,000 per employee.  Eliminating Prop. 13 would be another hammer blow.

Businesses not escaping paying their fair share of taxes

Property owners should beware the misinformation in Willie Brown’s call for a split-roll property tax. Currently under Prop. 13, all property is reassessed in value only upon sale.

Under a split-roll tax, residential properties would continue under that system. But commercial properties would be reassessed at least every three years.

Brown infers that big corporations are getting away without paying their fair share of property taxes when they merely change title to commercial property.  Brown is a lawyer and knows that merely changing a title is not considered a “transfer” or “sale” under existing law.  And any changes to the law would likely end up being overturned by the courts, as they have in the past.

Proposition 13 is one of the most adjudicated laws in California history.  A practical review of whether a property transfer meets the criteria of being considered a “sale” under Prop. 13 can be found here.

Brown’s goal is to change public perception

Then why do politicians like Willie Brown keep banging a loud drum in the media about commercial properties getting away with avoiding property reassessments by transferring “the stock in the company that owns the property”?   And why does Brown continue to propagate the myth that property taxes disproportionately fall on homeowners instead of commercial property owners?  The most impartial study conducted in California found that commercial properties pay more of their fair share of property taxes than residential properties.

Such facts don’t matter to politicians like Brown because their argument is for political purposes, not for rational argument.  It is the symbol of wealthy big corporate commercial property owners being stingy that Brown wants to fabricate.  A falsehood told often enough is often believed to be true.  And the mainstream media no longer view their job as correcting the erroneous statements of those who are for raising taxes in California.

The apparent objective is to get a split roll property tax on the books even if it doesn’t raise revenues and mostly impacts small businesses.  Once a split roll property tax is on the books, Willie Brown will again say that it is “unfair” that businesses have their property taxes reassessed every three years and residential properties do not.  Then they will take a case through the courts calling for “tax fairness.” And legislators will shift the blame onto the courts for eliminating Prop. 13 protections for all residential properties.


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  1. us citizen
    us citizen 10 December, 2012, 10:53

    Hey Willie……..go pound sand

    Reply this comment
  2. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 10 December, 2012, 10:58

    I agree.

    Reply this comment
  3. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 10 December, 2012, 16:18

    I wold not mind commercial properties being appraised once a decade if the money were spent for the states citizens, ALL of them, not a funnel into public employee pockets for better pay and benefits, where 90% of ALL revenue/taxes now goes, soon that # will be 95% and eventually 99%.

    Reply this comment
  4. Ex-Californian
    Ex-Californian 10 December, 2012, 18:20

    Right on !! Chasing out businesses and the middle class, Why not chase out the seniors on fixed incomes that are covered by prop 13….Way to go idiots at the brain dead dome in Sacramento !!

    Reply this comment
  5. Donkey
    Donkey 10 December, 2012, 20:32

    Rex, history shows the citizens of this state that your wish will not be honored at any level of state politics!! And that every effort will be made to steal all that can be stolen from every land owner. In the end, if your wish were granted, most Californians would be left homeless, and the entire state would look more like Detriot. 😉

    Reply this comment
  6. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 11 December, 2012, 00:11

    In the end, if your wish were granted, most Californians would be left homeless, and the entire state would look more like Detroit
    My wish would be that the increase in taxes would benefit the entire state, nit just the public employees- and I do not think that will ever happen until laws are in place protecting the public form the graft of the public unions and the politicians

    Reply this comment
  7. Ex-Californian
    Ex-Californian 11 December, 2012, 09:11

    The working middle and working poor have always been the mules for the entitlement mooches. If any of the working middle or working poor became temporarily down and out and tried getting assistance from the very system they have been funding, They would be told “You do not qualify” California is designed for the freeloaders and the rich who can afford it.

    Reply this comment
  8. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 11 December, 2012, 11:00

    A split roll is the only way to make Proposition 13 reflect the truth about Howard Jarvis’ sales pitch in the first place. We’re long past the time for commercial property to be removed from the limit.

    Reply this comment
  9. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 12 December, 2012, 07:03

    Well said Skip—-

    Reply this comment

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