Christmas time brings out showings of the classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life, in which an angel shows the main character, George Bailey, what life would be like in his community if he had never been born. California has its own version on this theme, admittedly told in the drier colors of reports and numbers – but what if Howard Jarvis had not been around to spearhead the tax revolt known as Proposition 13?

Extrapolating the numbers from a recent Legislative Analyst report, its clear that many California homeowners and property owners would be living in a dreary Pottersville existence. (Movie reference—see the film.)

Since California bottomed out in the housing bubble, home market values have increased dramatically. The Legislative Analyst reports that the median prices of homes in the state have increased about 10-percent a year since 2011; in some counties the increase was greater. Yet, because of Proposition 13, property owners are not suffering the burden of sharply increased property taxes.

Just like the homebuyers George Bailey tried to help in It’s a Wonderful Life, Howard Jarvis’s Prop 13 has protected homeowners from the wild variances of the housing market that California produces from time to time.

As George Bailey was asked by the angel to imagine what his community would be like if he never existed – a dreary and sleazy place – one can imagine headlines without Prop 13 when property values soar now and the Prop 13 tax rate and protections are gone:

Seniors Forced to Give Up Home Over Increased Property Tax

Neighborhood Small Business Cuts Employee to Meet Property Tax Obligation

Manufacturer Declares Moving Out-of-State; Can’t Afford Constantly Increasing Property Taxes

In an earlier LAO report, it was pointed out that since 1979 when Prop 13 took effect, the assessed value of homes, most often determined by the selling price, is far more stable than the market value. That means a steady source of income for local government helping governments to manage wild fluctuations in the economy. It also means stability for property owners – they know what their property tax obligation will be and can budget accordingly.

George Bailey hoped to give his customers at the Savings & Loan a peace-of-mind security. Proposition 13 did a better job of giving taxpayers certainty in their tax situation.