Jerry Brown is Back, and so is Proposition 13

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

Proposition 13
never went away, of course, but with the return of Jerry Brown as governor
comes more conversation about Proposition 13, the property tax cutting measure
that will be forever linked to Brown. The famous ballot prop passed during
Brown’s first term as governor. He opposed it when it was on the ballot but led
the effort to implement the measure when voters overwhelmingly passed Prop 13.

Now Brown wants to change some of the ways the measure was implemented.

Yesterday, Brown told the California State Association of Counties that he
wants to realign government and return program responsibilities and
accountability to local government. The big question for local government is
how those programs will be funded.

Will Brown seek authorization for new taxing authority for local government?
Will he see that money is shipped directly to local governments from the state
with no strings attached? Or will he consider changes to Proposition 13 so that
property tax will play an even larger role in funding local government?

Brown seemed to go out of his way to say Proposition 13, itself, is not the
problem. It was what happened after Prop 13 passed and what the legislature
did, he asserted. However, what the legislature did in implementing Prop 13 had
Governor Brown’s blessing at the time.

When word of Brown’s comments on the tax cutting proposition were reported a
storm started brewing, with attacks against Brown for wanting to mess with Prop
13. Many comments on newspaper blogs following the story of Brown’s comments
blasted the new governor. (There were also some that said Prop 13 should be
changed.) A number of writers said Brown was dooming his governorship; others
said they knew he would go after Prop 13 sooner or later.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, named after
the co-author of Proposition 13, saw Brown’s words differently. "The media is
way over-playing this.  They would love a story that says Jerry is taking
on Prop 13.  For now, we continue to wait to see his plan."

Brown’s plan for realignment can be accomplished without undermining
Proposition 13. He is correct that legislative action, not Proposition 13, set
the rules for how local money is distributed. Changes to the legislative action
of three decades ago can be altered by statute by the current legislature.

It will be interesting to see how Brown plans to carry out the realignment. One
thing is sure, if he wants to assign more responsibilities and funding to local
government, then the state government should shrink proportionately.

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