On June 6th, many across the globe will be remembering the sacrifices made by thousands of American, British and Canadian young men who hit the beaches at Normandy to free Europe from Nazi tyranny. Californians will also be celebrating this date because it marks the 36th birthday of the landmark tax limiting measure, Proposition 13.
Howard Jarvis, Paul Gann and the tens of thousands of volunteers who made Proposition 13 possible would be proud to see that Proposition 13’s protections against the avarice of government officials continue intact as we move into its 37th year. And Californians, today, are still appreciative with 63 percent of likely votes telling a recent Public Policy Institute of California poll that they see Proposition 13 as a “mostly a good thing” compared to only 27 percent seeing it as mostly bad.
Of course all of this disappoints those on the left, especially the far left, who view Proposition 13 the way a vampire regards sunlight. They condemn its protections for property owners and all taxpayers as detrimental to their goals of massive spending increases on programs they favor. To them, homeowners are seen as “rich,” business property owners as “exploiters” and everyday taxpayers, who chose to vote no on a local ballot measure to raise taxes, as “greedy.”
These radicals must be even more discomfited at learning from the above-mentioned PPIC survey that 76 percent of voters, who because of Proposition 13 already have the right to vote on new local taxes, want a greater say on new state taxes and spending proposals. This populist tendency of California voters runs counter to the agenda of the tax raisers, who include narrow special interests that thrive off government spending, and government employee unions. To make it easier to wring more from taxpayers — who are already paying the highest marginal income tax rates, highest state sales tax, highest gasoline tax and even with Proposition 13 in place rank in the top third in all 50 states in per capita property taxes — the tax-raisers put great effort into electing compliant Legislators. The tax-and-spend lobby already has to overcome Proposition 13’s mandated two-thirds vote of the Legislature to increase state taxes and, for them, a public that wants greater participation in decisions on their own taxation is unwelcome news.
Opposition to Proposition 13 from special interests is understandable, but there are average Californians who question how Proposition 13 benefits them more than a third of a century after its passage. To them Proposition 13 is good news because the landmark measure has something for everybody.
Homeowners benefit because Proposition 13 makes property taxes predictable and stable so they can budget for taxes and remain in their homes. This is true where the owner bought their home 25 years ago or last week.
Renters benefit because Proposition 13 makes property taxes predictable and stable for owners of residential rental property, and this reduces upward pressure on rents. Additionally, Proposition 13 increases the likelihood that renters, too, will be able to experience the American Dream of homeownership.
Business owners, especially small business owners, benefit because Proposition 13 makes property taxes predictable for businesses, and it helps owners budget and invest in growing their businesses. This helps create jobs and improves the economy.
Local governments and schools benefit because Proposition 13 provides a reliable, stable and growing revenue source. Even when real property values drop property tax revenues continue to grow.
Neighborhoods benefit because Proposition 13 stabilizes neighborhoods — residents are no longer driven out by unaffordable tax increases — as was pointed out by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1992 decision upholding Proposition 13.
All taxpayers benefit because Proposition 13 guarantees their right to vote on new local taxes.
So, after 36 years, perhaps we can celebrate not only Proposition 13’s passage, but also the fact that increasing numbers of Californians understand how it reflects good tax policy and why the fight to preserve it must never cease.