Gov. Jerry Brown told Republican legislators at a hearing on his gas tax and vehicle fee increase proposal that their opposition occurred because they were “haunted by the ghost of Howard Jarvis.” It is the other way around. Howard Jarvis haunts Jerry Brown.

Jarvis, lead author and advocate for Proposition 13, the 1978 tax cutting initiative, has been a thorn in Brown’s side for 40 years—with a couple exceptions, which we’ll discuss in a moment.

Most Californians who read the history know that Brown, in his first term as governor, opposed Proposition 13. Once it passed Brown declared himself a born-again tax cutter and spent time trying to implement the measure as best he could. He said he was listening to the voters’ wishes.

Yet, Proposition 13 not only cut property taxes, it also demanded that any tax increase in the legislature receive a two-thirds vote. Brown has worked to overcome that barrier a number of times.

In 2012, he was unsuccessful in getting the legislature to increase taxes because of the two-thirds vote requirement. He turned to an initiative, Proposition 30, to raise the income and sales tax.

Brown’s signature effort on climate change that relies on a cap-and-trade program has been threatened because of a lawsuit filed by business interests that says the Brown Administration ignored the Prop 13 two-thirds vote requirement when cap-and-trade was passed.

Now, Brown is pushing his road fix plan with accompanying taxes and fees and once again the two-thirds vote law stands as a steep wall to climb, a barrier looked over by Jarvis’s ghost.

It’s probably also safe to say that Brown has not ventured into tax reform because of the scars gained during the Prop 13 fight of four decades ago.

So, when the governor tells Republicans that the ghost of Howard Jarvis is hovering over them preventing members of the GOP to challenge tax cut orthodoxy promoted by Jarvis, he is really saying that Howard Jarvis’s ghost is interfering with his own plans.

Of course, Brown has been willing to call up that ghost when need be. In his run for the governorship in 2010, Brown’s campaign gleefully repeated Jarvis’s statement in his autobiography that he voted for Jerry Brown for re-election after Prop 13 passed. Jarvis explained that Brown as governor was doing a good job implementing Prop 13 and Jarvis needed to work with the governor to see that the measure was implemented properly.

An oddity of California politics from the 1978 gubernatorial campaign, Jarvis cut a political ad praising Brown and his effort on making Prop 13 work not long after Jarvis cut another political ad that praised Brown’s opponent, Attorney General Evelle Younger, for defending Prop 13 in court.

Here’s a news report from nearly 40 years ago with a reporter marveling at the dual ads.

As for the ghost of Howard Jarvis, it still hangs around the capitol to perplex governors and legislators alike, and to hold up a shield for taxpayers.