Reasons Split Roll Survives, Other Tax Initiative Doesn’t. It Wasn’t About Schools

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

News that the California School Boards Association pulled back their tax increase initiative leaves only one high profile measure destined for the California November ballot that will, in part, fund schools. The proposal to split the property tax roll so that most commercial property pays more in taxes will be the focus of the school and tax raising interests.

The decision to pull the California School Boards initiative is a curious choice given recent poll results and potential opposition seemingly much greater for the split roll.

The November Public Policy Institute of California poll found that the idea found in the School Boards proposal to tax wealthy income taxpayers and corporations and dedicate all the money to the schools was leading among likely voters, 56% to 38%. Meanwhile, likely voters were divided over the split roll with 46% in favor and 45% opposed.

Taking on the iconic Proposition 13 is certainly a higher hill to climb than painting the rich and corporations as targets. Even with supporters of the split roll arguing that corporations must pay their fair share of taxes, opponents will point out that small business would suffer as will as consumers when costs are passed on.

There is an organized campaign to oppose the split roll. No committee was formed to oppose the school boards measure as of yet.

Further, the split roll sends only 40% of gained tax revenue to the schools with local governments getting the remainder. The School Boards measure would keep 100% with the schools.

With those obvious advantages, why did the school spending interests abandon the school boards’ measure?

The California School Boards Association announcement that they would not move forward explained that polling showed that two measures on the same ballot raising taxes for schools might lead both to defeat. That makes sense, but why choose the tougher road?

Here are a couple of suggestions from an admittedly outsider.

Other unions representing local government workers are desperately looking for new revenues to offset the coming crisis with pension and healthcare costs. Those unions representing local workers are strongly behind the split roll and undoubtedly put pressure on the school interests to stick with the split roll alone and to preserve public union harmony.

Then there is this: A victory in the split roll campaign, a change to the legendary Proposition 13, would open the door for moving eventually against the 40-year-old property tax reform measure, a not so secret goal of many who advocate for more and more taxes.

Comment on this article


Please note, statements and opinions expressed on the Fox&Hounds Blog are solely those of their respective authors and may not represent the views of Fox&Hounds Daily or its employees thereof. Fox&Hounds Daily is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the site's bloggers.