Former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, in a recent gubernatorial debate, made it clear that he thinks changes should be considered to Proposition 13. Advocating for a change in law that would raise taxes on commercial property could put in jeopardy business support for his candidacy that seemed to be growing.

Villaraigosa’s stance on Proposition 13 is not new. As mayor of Los Angeles, he made a speech to the Sacramento Press Club six years ago advocating for what is known as a split roll—creating different property tax assessment rules for residential and commercial property. Comments on a New York Times news video produced last year discussing Proposition 13 also carried comments by Villaraigosa about a fix to the iconic tax measure as the program’s narrator discussed the split roll.

In a governor’s race that many insiders feel will feature two Democrats under California’s top-two primary rules, Villaraigosa has received a favorable once-over from the business community as the leading candidate in the polls, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, moves to the left on many positions.   

The former Los Angeles mayor has seen his stock rise with business leaders because of his actions as mayor to stand up to the city’s teachers’ union over the best way to educate Los Angeles students. Villaraigosa also has shown fiscal awareness, an issue dear to the business community, in dealing with a single payer health care issue. He called the single payer bill that made its way through the state senate but stalled in the assembly “snake oil” because it did not come with a funding mechanism.

Major business organizations are not happy with the two announced Republican candidates, businessman John Cox and Assemblyman Travis Allen, because both support a repeal of the recently increased gas tax. Major business  organizations supported the gas tax increase to improve transportation infrastructure, which they argue, will boost the economy.

As business groups work their way to a position on gubernatorial candidates, some liberal unions are already jumping ahead with endorsements – even before the filing period closes for candidates to declare a run for office. The California Teachers Association and the National Union of Healthcare Workers endorsed Newsom last month.

For Villaraigosa then, collaring support from the business community would be a valuable asset.

Yet, Villargaisoa’s appeal to business is undercut by his split roll position. Especially because major business associations have already publicly pledged to spend millions of dollars to oppose a split roll effort should it make the ballot.

Following the recent gubernatorial debate for leading Democratic candidates, Villaraigosa went further than advocating for a split roll when it came to considering changes to Proposition 13. The San Francisco Chronicle reported Villaraigosa told reporters all aspects of Proposition 13 should be reviewed for possible changes. That will raise the ire of taxpayer and homeowner groups.