Prop 13 Protects California’s Veterans

Lorraine Justin-Plass
Lorraine Justin-Plass is the 3rd Vice Commander, AMVETS, Department of California and a U.S. Army veteran.

Last week, America observed Veteran’s Day, a national holiday dedicated to celebrating the contributions and sacrifices of the men and women who honorably served in our Armed Forces. A seminal moment in my life was my service in the U.S. Army. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my service.

Like 1.7 million of California’s $40-million residents, I choose to live in the Golden State. My concerns mirrors those of most Californians – and many California-based veterans. I worry about taking care of my family, making sure my paycheck is sufficient to cover my cost of living and figuring out how to make-do in a high-tax, high-regulation state.

It’s for these reasons that I, as a representative of a statewide veteran’s organization, am so concerned about efforts to undo one of the most significant and necessary ballot measures in California history – Prop 13.California voters overwhelmingly passed Prop 13 in 1978 to bring certainty to residents and businesses, allowing us to afford our property tax bills in the future. Prop 13 gives every Californian who buys a home confidence that we will not be forced out of our homes later in life due to unpredictable, rising property taxes. It also provides every business certainty about what our taxes will be so we can keep our doors open, meet payroll and continue to grow.

According to 2017 American Community Survey data, 71% of California veterans are homeowners and 27% are renters. Prop 13 keeps older veterans in their homes and provides certainty for younger veterans who are trying to build a future for themselves and their families.

On the small business front, the most recent U.S. Census data shows that veterans own 43,201 businesses in California and another 18,000 businesses had a veteran as an equal share owner. Many of these small businesses lease their stores, offices and shops. When property taxes increase, property owners pass along these costs to their small business tenants by raising rents – cutting into their ability to stay in business and increasing costs for all of us as small businesses pass along these higher costs.

So, now that Veteran’s Day is in the rearview mirror, I feel compelled to make all of those who served – and those who didn’t – aware of the serious, well-organized attempts to destroy Prop 13 and increase California’s property taxes. Current attacks on Prop 13 include state and local ballot measures, state legislation and lawsuits that would increase property taxes or make it easier to raise property taxes at the local level.

What’s even more tragic is that 2018 United States Department of Housing and Urban Development data showed California led the nation with nearly one-quarter of the country’s homeless. It found that California had 10,836 homeless veterans, of which 7,214 were unsheltered. The fact that almost 11,000 men and women who served in our Armed Forces are homeless is unsatisfactory by any standard or measure.

I urge California’s veterans to fight for Prop 13 and oppose efforts to raise property taxes, which could further increase homelessness and make life more difficult for Californians already living paycheck to paycheck.

So, as many of us who served our country marched in Veteran’s Day parades, waved the Stars and Stripes and/or saluted the men and women who selflessly served our country, California veterans and all taxpayers should give pause and recognize that efforts to undo Prop 13 represent not only a serious threat to California veterans but also to a state already burdened by a high cost of living, high taxes and an affordability crisis.

I’m proudly fighting to protect Prop 13. I hope other California veterans will answer the call and do the same.

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