The presidential election in 2016 is will be a defining generational election for California’s future. Just as we are coming out of the recession, efforts are now underway by special interest and public employee unions in Sacramento to raise $20 billion in new taxes to fund increased benefits for their members.

These new taxes will likely be advanced through at least four separate statewide ballot initiatives, from oil taxes to property taxes in order to fund major increases in teacher and state government salaries, pensions, and increased health care costs.

Thanks to hard-working California taxpayers from all income levels, our current state budget is in the black with an annual surplus of almost $2 billion. An additional $20 billion in new taxes will negatively impact our current recovery for small businesses, jobs and our overall economic competitiveness.

One initiative that is currently being pursued will strike at the heart Proposition 13, one of our most important tax protections for homeowners and businesses.

That initiative is called split roll — a $6 billion to $10 billion tax increase that would result from changing Proposition 13 so that commercial property is reassessed every year, affecting the rent payments of every small and minority-owned business and non-profit foundation in California.

The California Tax Reform Association, California Calls and Evolve have spent the past two years advancing the idea that commercial property should be taxed at a much higher level than residential property, which would not only be the most significant change to Proposition 13 since 1978 but would be the largest property tax increase ever proposed.

These groups argue that Proposition 13 should be changed because a few clever investors use tax lawyers to pursue loopholes to avoid reassessments in large, complex property transactions.

Since this was not the intent of Proposition 13, we joined together and sponsored a reform bill last year to prevent any potential abuses in these transactions. AB 2371 was authored by the chair of the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee, Raul Bocanegra, and San Francisco-area Assemblyman Tom Ammiano and supported by a broad coalition of business and taxpayer organizations. Most importantly, we also had the support of the California Tax Reform Association (who is pursuing the split roll initiative) as it passed overwhelmingly off the Assembly floor.

But then a strange thing happened on the way to the Senate. The California Tax Reform Association suddenly flip-flopped and withdrew its support in the Senate, saying that AB 2371 was not real reform after all. Why? Because they realized that taking care of a potential problem would actually create a bigger problem for their political agenda to pass a split roll initiative next year. The California Tax Reform Association and other groups want to preserve the “loophole” issue as one of their key messages in the 2016 campaign.

Numerous studies have shown just how bad higher commercial property taxes would be for California. Studies by former Legislative Analyst William Hamm and Dr. Steven Frates, president of the Center for Government Analysis, show a loss of 400,000 jobs and real hardships imposed on the monthly rents paid by California’s small, minority- and women-owned businesses.

If our state budgets already have a $2 billion surplus then why would you raise taxes again?

The predictability of property taxes under Proposition 13 is one of the best advantages homeowners and businesses have in high-tax California. Now is not the time for a massive and arbitrary increase in property taxes unless our goal is to drive more companies and jobs to leave.

We stand ready with legislation to fix any abuses and we stand equally ready to fight any effort to change Proposition 13 that would raise property taxes for hard-working Californians.

Originally published in the Los Angeles Daily News.