A Short History of Proposition 13

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

(Editor’s Note: Proposition 13, the 1978 property tax measure, continues to be in the news in California with talk of reforms in some quarters. Just this week, the Public Policy Institute of California polled some issues related to Prop 13. The poll found that 66% of likely voters found Prop 13 to be a good thing for California. That included 78% of Republicans, 62% of Independents, and 58% of Democrats. With 13 still making news in California, it is probably an opportune time to publish the text of a speech I gave a few months ago on the history of Proposition 13.)

Let me take you back to 1966 to Newhall, California right here in Los Angeles County, to an item that appeared in the local Newhall Signal newspaper. It came with a picture of an elderly couple standing before their house. It would not be unkind to call it a shack. The house was assessed for taxes at the property’s highest and best use, a standard used by assessors at the time. Since an apartment building had been built close by, this elderly couple’s home was assessed as if an apartment building was built there. The couple’s tax bill, in 1966 dollars, was $1800 a year. Their total income was $1900 a year.

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Will Ethnicity Trump the Gender Advantage in the Upcoming US Senate Race?

Mike Madrid
Partner at GrassrootsLab, and a nationally recognized expert on Latino voting trends. In 2001, named one of America's "Most Influential Hispanics" by Hispanic Business Magazine.

Some of the most fascinating focus groups I’ve ever conducted were of Democratic women in the 2008 Presidential primary. For the first time we were able to gauge women voters sentiment simultaneously on race and gender with both the first female and African-American candidate for President on the ballot.

White women overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton while Black women unanimously supported Barack Obama. Racial identity trumped gender identity.

This first opportunity for African-American women to choose a candidate based largely on their gender or ethnicity provided profound insight into both racial and gender decision making. And for the moment at least it was clear that racial/ethnic voting is a much stronger indicator for voting behavior than gender.

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Governments’ Oil Windfall

Susanne Trimbath
Susanne Trimbath, Ph.D. is CEO and Chief Economist of STP Advisory Services. Dr. Trimbath served as a Technical Advisor to the California Economic Strategy Panel and Associate Professor of Finance and Business Economics at University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

We are reading a lot about the windfall coming to consumers due to falling gas prices now that oil is under $50/barrel. But cheap energy also represents a windfall for governments, including governments who are hard pressed for cash.

The US uses nearly 20% of the world’s energy consumption every year. That spending includes households, businesses, industries and governments. Households in the US spend nearly $450 billion on gasoline alone to fuel their 2.28 vehicles. Energy for transportation represents about 50% of US consumer spending on average and climbs to nearly 70% in the summer when there is more driving. Governments spend money on gasoline, too.

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Assisted Suicide Issue is Back

James Poulos
Staff Columnist, Orange County Register

Physician-assisted suicide has returned to California’s political agenda. After years off the table, the issue gained new life in the wake of Brittany Maynard’s high-profile decision to end her life.

Maynard, 29, an assisted-suicide activist living in Oregon, advertised her impending death as a dignified response to the “aggressive” form of terminal brain cancer that left her with a few painful months of natural life. Maynard moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Oregon to avail herself of the state’s 1997 law authorizing a narrowly tailored right to die at the hands of doctors.

Now legislators in Sacramento have borrowed the language of that law to draft a version that would protect assisted suicide throughout California.

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Brown’s Popularity Key to Prop 30’s Future

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Governor Jerry Brown’s job approval ratings are sky high in the recent Public Policy Institute of California Poll, which means the fate of Prop 30 could hang on a word from the governor. Brown continues to remind those who want to see Proposition 30 extended or made permanent that he campaigned for a temporary tax increase.

However, supporters of extending the tax will look at the PPIC poll and think they might get the voters on their side. The poll asked if respondents would like to see the tax extended beyond its 2018 expiration date. No length of extension was offered in the poll question. 52% of likely voters favored extension while 43% opposed. The crucial Independent voters in close election contests narrowly supported the idea of an extension, 49% to 45%.

The poll showed 61% of all adults and 58% of likely voters think Jerry Brown is doing a good job. That is a high mark for his second go-around as governor. Not surprisingly, Brown’s approval among Democrats sits at 82%. However, his job performance also gets the nod from 30% of Republicans and 56% of Independents.

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Is A Mileage Fee In California Drivers’ Future?

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

Seeking a creative and long-term solution for financing highway and road construction and upkeep, a new commission kicked off its investigation of a “Road User Charge” as a possible replacement for the well-traveled gasoline tax.

Created by 2014 legislation and given the nod by Governor Brown, the ponderously-named Road User Charge Pilot Program Technical Advisory Committee kicked off its deliberations last week. I am privileged to have been appointed one of of the committee’s 15 members, representing business and economic interests.

A confluence of forces continues to reduce the effectiveness of the gasoline tax as a stable revenue source for highways. Pegged to the amount of gasoline purchased, the tax could keep pace neither with inflation in construction costs or increased efficiency in automobile performance. CalTrans has estimated that inflation and improved vehicle efficiency has eroded more than 60 percent of the value of the gasoline tax since 1994. 

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To Improve L.A. Voter Turnout: Experiment

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Like a man who bangs his head against the wall to cure a headache, Los Angeles will hold more municipal elections this March. The certain result: another low-turnout embarrassment that draws the usual lamentations about how our democracy is in peril.

Enough with the crying. If California’s civic leaders are so sure that Los Angeles elections are democratic disasters, then why don’t they respond as they would in other kinds of disasters—and declare an official state of emergency?

In other California contexts, disasters draw interventions that offer the opportunity to make big changes. After an earthquake or fire or mudslide, officials can declare emergencies in order to take quick, decisive action, without following the usual regulations, until a damaged place is restored to normal. When California school districts don’t meet academic standards or go underwater financially, the state can take them over and try to fix them. When law enforcement or transportation agencies fail, the courts or the federal government can appoint overseers empowered to take extraordinary actions. Even neighborhoods that are persistently poor can be designated for intervention.

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The State Of The Presidency And Defining Victory

Richard Rubin
He writes about political issues and is President of a Public Affairs Management Firm. He also teaches courses on the Presidential & Congressional Elections at the University of San Francisco and is Vice Chair of the California Commonwealth Club.

Vince Lombardi may have spoken the bald truth: “Winning is not everything it is the only thing.” But how do you define victory?

Technically Barack Obama has won far less than what he sought at the onset of his presidency and the odds of bettering that record are growing longer each day.

However, he has already scored something of a triumph by taking ownership of “middle class economics” and it is altering the Washington landscape.

Republicans have the choice of accepting this or merely stiffening their resistance to push legislation dead on arrival, which will only force the president to exercise his veto pen.

Despite shortcomings and notwithstanding legions of critics,  Obama arguably has racked up significant achievements that help the middle class and may give the next Democratic nominee some running room.

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Team Educate Runs Up Big Lead on Team Medicate

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

When you watch a California budget season, the best way to understand what you’re watching is as a game between three teams.

Those three teams represent the three major functions of the state: Educate, Medicate, and Incarcerate.

These days, this is really a two-team race, however. Because Team Incarcerate is in the penalty box, forced by the federal courts to reduce its number of players.

That leaves Team Educate and Team Medicate. And the contest is an interesting one.

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A One-Two Punch Against the Initiative Process at the Supreme Court

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

An Arizona case before the U.S. Supreme Court that challenges the state’s ballot initiative created redistricting commission could have such an effect on California politics that three former California governors, noted California political scientists, and a California state commission have all filed briefs in the case.

California voters also approved ballot measures that took the power to draw district lines away from the legislature and gave it to an independent commission. Proposition 11 in 2008 created the Commission to draw state legislative districts, Proposition 20 in 2010 allowed the commission to draw congressional districts. If the Arizona legislature were successful in court banning the commission more than the redistricting commissions would fall. Ultimately, the entire initiative process could be endangered.

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