Some tax reformers hold onto the hope of changing Prop 13 via ballot measure next year. But a new PPIC poll suggests that the moment for big reform is over.
The PPIC poll showed a record high percentage of Californians – 61 percent – saying Prop 13 had been mostly a good thing for the state. Support for a split roll tax tying commercial property taxes to current market value has dropped to its lowest support since PPIC began asking about it three years ago. And there is less than majority support for lowering the two-thirds majority vote require at the ballot box for new local special taxes to 55 percent.
All these findings suggest that the moment has passed for changing Prop 13. A move to change Prop 13 might have made sense during the recession when the budget was unbalanced and the state was starving for funds. But not right now.
It also would have helped to have expanded the conversation beyond the property tax limitation pieces of Prop 13 to the fundamental governance problem of the initiative. Specifically, the 2/3 requirement for local taxes undermines local democracy and accountability, encouraging overspending at the local level. But the issue has never been defined that way.
It’ll probably take another budget crisis, and maybe a recession, before another opportunity comes along. And even then, messing with Prop 13 will require the laying of groundwork that has yet to be laid.