Thirty-two years ago, Time magazine wrote about the passage
of Proposition 13, "That angry noise was the sound of a middle-class
tax revolt erupting and its tremors are shaking public officials from
Sacramento to Washington D.C."
The power of Proposition 13 to shake up the political landscape and
topple politicians, who attempt to undermine it, remains undiminished.
Just Ask Steve Poizner who ran as a fiscal conservative in the
Republican primary for governor while carrying the baggage of having
spent $200,000 to pass an initiative that has made it easier to
increase property taxes for bonds that have cost taxpayers nearly $40
billion. While he pleaded that he regretted his prior actions,
taxpayers, especially homeowners, had a problem dismissing this, as
well as another Poizner backed effort to increase property taxes, from
their minds when they entered the voting booth.
Jerry Brown was taught his lesson back in 1978. He vigorously opposed
the Jarvis tax relief measure before the election. When it was
approved by 65% of voters, he moved quickly to embrace it. So
quickly, in fact, a month after the election, a Los Angeles Times
poll showed that a majority of people thought he had backed
Proposition 13. His active cheerleading for the tax limiting measure
earned him the nickname "Jerry Jarvis" and he won reelection in
November of that year.
Now that Brown is looking to become governor again, it remains to be
seen if he will reinvent himself once more on the issue of Proposition
13, but publically, he continues to pay it homage. Last year he told
an audience at UC Irvine, "I don’t think taking on Proposition 13 is
viable," and added, "I don’t think it (change) is needed."
While this may not be enough to put taxpayers totally at ease —
especially when Brown’s biggest political allies, the government
employee unions, despise Proposition 13 — it shows that Brown is not
anxious to become the next victim of the Proposition 13 wood chipper.
Four statewide polls, conducted over the last several years, show
that if Proposition 13 were on the ballot today it could easily
receive a higher percentage of the vote than it did originally. The
measure’s continuing popularity should not be lost on anyone seriously
seeking statewide office.
Many now want to know, not only where Meg Whitman stands on Proposition
13, but what are the indications she can be counted on to defend it in
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has Whitman’s declaration of
support for Proposition 13 in writing. More than that, she has
repeatedly told taxpayers, "I will not let you down." Perhaps most
important, she has demonstrated that she understands the human impact
of Proposition 13 and how much it means to average taxpayers. She
speaks with enthusiasm about a recent visit to an 87 year old
homeowner. The woman told Whitman that her taxes are just over
$2,000. Without Proposition 13 they would be an unaffordable $6,600.
While this story of an elderly widow who is able to maintain her home
due to Proposition 13 makes a powerful point, Whitman beams when she
adds that the woman’s son and his family live next door. For the fact
that this extended family can remain in the same neighborhood, Whitman
credits Proposition 13.
Whitman sees what Justice Blackmun saw when he penned the majority
opinion in the 1992 US Supreme Court decision that upheld Proposition
13’s constitutionality. "First, the state has a legitimate interest
in local neighborhood preservation, continuity, and
stability&hellip." wrote the justice.
In the larger context, Proposition 13 is much more than a law that
limits how rapidly property taxes can be raised. Proposition 13 is
about people. It is about homes and families. Because of Proposition
13, Californians can aspire to own a home without the fear that
government will seize their property by imposing arbitrary taxes they
The view of California taxpayers is unequivocal: Politicians, who would tamper with Proposition 13, do so at their peril.