Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s AB 2492, scheduled to be heard today in the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee, would change the definition of change of property ownership under the law resulting in increased property taxes on commercial property. But, the ultimate goal for many of those supporting the bill is to change all of Proposition 13, including the homeowner property tax protections.
Ammiano made no secret of his desire to "nuke" all of Proposition 13 in a press conference held last week. The assemblyman admitted he was pursuing his bill to change the law on commercial property first because he needed to attack Proposition 13 "incrementally." The public employee unions, which support Ammiano’s bill, to my knowledge have not disassociated themselves from his remarks. Representatives of some of those unions appeared at the press conference.
Moreover, one of the main funders of a study backing changes to Proposition 13 has written about the need to undo Proposition 13, which he called an "unmitigated disaster" that has "wrecked havoc" in California.
David Bohnett, founder of the private equity firm Baroda Ventures and chairman of the David Bohnett Foundation, wrote a column in the Huffington Post in which he asserted that, "Prop 13 has choked funding for local and state governments to the point of starvation."
This statement flies in the face of the facts as reported by Chris Reed of the San Diego Union Tribune a couple of years ago:
From fiscal 1980-81 – the year Proposition 13 took effect – through 2005-06, property tax revenue skyrocketed from $6.4 billion to $38.3 billion. That is an increase of more than 500 percent. So much for talk that the measure turned off the property tax spigot.
Any claim that the two-thirds requirement to hike state taxes depressed other revenue is also flat wrong. Total state revenue went from $19 billion in 1980-81 to $93.5 billion in 2005-06 – a jump of nearly 400 percent.
These whopping revenue gains occurred in an era in which the state’s population went up by 58 percent and, according to federal data, inflation rose by 131 percent. The upshot: Lawmakers have at least twice as much money – inflation-adjusted money – to spend per Californian as they did when Proposition 13 took effect.
Bohnett’s article included a formula for raising homeowner property taxes.
Bohnett’s foundation is listed first among the funders of a study which purportedly shows that the property tax burden has shifted from business to homeowners since Prop 13 passed. The study, presented at the Ammiano press conference is support of AB 2492, also argued that changes of business property ownership occurred without reappraisal by county assessors.
The property tax shift argument already has been dismissed by the California Taxpayers Association using Board of Equalization data. Furthermore, as reported in Bay Area newspapers, Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone "bristled" at the idea that assessor’s were leaving tax money on the table and not keeping up with changes in ownership of business property.
With the assertions of Ammiano and Bohnett to undo all parts of Prop 13, and the sympathetic support of the public employee unions, the evidence is clear. The Ammiano bill is just the first step. The goal is to destroy Proposition 13.