It’s surprising, in a way, that as California politics have shifted to the left over the past few decades, the iconic symbol of its once-conservative side, Proposition 13, remains intact.
Passed overwhelmingly by voters in 1978, Proposition 13 froze property tax rates (1% plus bonds) and limited the growth of taxable values to 2% per year as long as the property did not change hands. It also made it difficult to enact new taxes of any kind, whether by politicians or voters.
Like all tax policies, the provisions of Proposition 13 were arbitrary. With the property tax bill rising at the time due to high inflation, anti-tax hawks Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann saw an opportunity and seized it, overcoming fierce opposition from leaders of both political parties and those who disliked the notion of limits fiscal and spending. .
Critics of Proposition 13 widely assumed it would be temporary because either the courts would invalidate the measure or voters would repeal it. It didn’t happen either. Both state Supreme Courts and the United States Supreme Court have upheld its constitutional validity, and in subsequent years, voters have strengthened its provisions.
The state’s leftward turn over the past quarter-century has spawned new efforts by those who loathe Proposition 13 — public employee unions and other advocates of additional spending — to amend or repeal it, but so far they have been unsuccessful.
Opponents believed the most salable change would be to remove property tax limits on commercial properties, while leaving them in place for homes and other residential properties. They chose the 2020 presidential election, with a large expected turnout of anti-Donald Trump Democratic voters, as the most favorable venue. However, they could not make the sale on a “split roll” and Proposition 15 was defeated, although not by a wide margin.
So what’s next in the perpetual battle over Proposition 13?
Last month, some left-of-center academics produced a new study framing Proposition 13 as a racist tool because white and Asian homeowners allegedly receive disproportionately high benefits from its limits compared to black and Latino Californians.
“Generations of Californians have been harmed by this policy, especially black and Latino Californians, those with lower incomes, and those with less wealth,” the study states. “The policy benefited older generations of Californians at the expense of those who came after.”
Income and wealth disparities among Californians are well-known and unfortunate, but they stem from multiple reasons that have nothing to do with Proposition 13, the study, conducted and published by the Berkeley-based Opportunity Institute, alleges. White homeowners benefited greatly from property tax caps because they were more likely to own property in the first place.
The study essentially catalogs a bunch of social ills that arose after the passage of Proposition 13 and tries to link them to the measure—guilt by chronological association, you might say. But the effort is undermined by a revealing paragraph:
“We found that disparities in housing and wealth have increased. While we cannot causally connect these patterns to Proposition 13, they nevertheless paint a troubling picture of the disparities that undermine California’s values of equal opportunity for all.
So, on the one hand, you blame the disparities on Proposition 13, and on the other, you say you “can’t causally connect” them to Proposition 13. That qualifies as intellectual dishonesty, starting with a conclusion and then cherry-picking data to make your case.
The study concludes that “academics, public finance experts, local leaders, and movement builders should collectively determine what it will take to overcome political and taxpayer resistance to changing Proposition 13 and other policies that limit taxation and budget decision-making in California.”
That statement is also telling. The real point of the study is to get more tax dollars to spend, not to fix some moral wrong that you can’t convincingly demonstrate.
CalMatters is a public interest journalism company committed to explaining how the California State Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to calmmatters.org/commentary.
Intellectually dishonest report attacks Proposition 13 on ‘equity’ grounds – Press Telegram Source link Intellectually dishonest report attacks Proposition 13 on ‘equity’ grounds – Press Telegram