Why is Prop. 13 off limits?

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

California does not need another study on tax reform. Nonetheless, with term limits having reduced lawmakers’ institutional memories in Sacramento I’ll go along with Assembly Speaker Karen Bass’s call for a blue ribbon task force on this topic.

At the risk of being permanently blacklisted from Fox & Hounds, I am disappointed that Speaker Bass told the Los Angeles Times’ George Skelton that Prop. 13 is off the table because it’s “too divisive.”

I was in second grade in LAUSD when Prop. 13 passed and remember the quality of the schools I attended somehow eroding after that (obviously due to a lot more than just Prop. 13). At the same time, I appreciate that many members of my family have been able to retire in the homes they purchased before Prop. 13 due to affordable property taxes. I also appreciate that Prop. 13 has helped commercial property owners stay in business. For me, however, Prop. 13 means that my generation is paying far more in property taxes for homes smaller than older property owners (and usually empty nesters) living in larger houses.

There are pros and cons to Prop. 13. Bass is astute in recognizing the popularity of Prop. 13, but can’t it be improved to benefit older and younger homeowners alike? Shouldn’t there be a reasonable discussion about how Prop. 13 changed funding formulas for cities and school districts and whether some of those changes should be revisited?

For my taxpayer money, I would like to see an end to the state spending more than we can afford, creation of a rainy day fund and some resemblance of fiscal responsibility. And if it’s not too much to ask, I’d like to see some tax reforms to make our state more competitive again especially as it relates to manufacturing and filmmaking.

As voters, we have passed a lot of propositions that sounded good when we voted for them, but when you put them all together later they appear to have tied the hands of legislators to do their primary job—draw up a reasonable spending plan every year for the state.

This issue has already been studied by dozens of talented academics and task forces. California needs tax reform and everything should initially be on the table for a productive discussion. And for starters, I think that the Legislature needs to clarify just what it is the state should be paying for and what it simply cannot afford.

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.