CA Dems Whittle Away at Landmark Property Tax Cap

For the first time since 1933, one party has 'supermajority' (greater than 2/3) control of CA's assembly and senate, and the governor's seat, except this time it's the Democrats. Legislators have their eyes on loosening the Proposition 13 leash.

The first proposal will be a measure by state Senator Mark Leno (D-SF) to allow voters to decide to reduce the threshold from two-thirds to 55% necessary for school districts to pass parcel taxes, a lower threshold already applied to school bonds.  In order for the measure to be placed on the ballot, it will require a two-thirds vote from each house per the tax restrictions imposed by the anti-tax 1978 Proposition 13.  Until this year, it was unlikely to receive that support as Republicans have voted with unanimity to oppose the placement of tax measures on the ballot, in addition to legislation authorizing tax increases.

Democrats are unlikely to raise taxes themselves as Gov. Jerry Brown has pledged to "raise taxes only with voter approval" as was done on Nov. 6 with Proposition 30 that increased the sales and top tier income tax.

Wyatt Buchanan writes that "Sen. Noreen Evans of Santa Rosa said Democrats should look at changing how business property taxes are levied under Prop. 13 and look at a tax on oil extraction to fund state parks."

"I think we would be betraying voters by squandering the mandate they gave us," she said of the supermajority.

One tax measure that won't be going before the voters though is the measure that arguably is most responsible for the budget crises that have afflicted the Golden State even since the past governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, replaced Gray Davis in the recall of 2003.  Douglas Morino of the Daily Breeze (Torrance, CA) writes that "Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Redondo Beach, is backing down from a plan to restore vehicle license fees (VLF) slashed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Hundreds of constituents reached out either personally, through his staff, or on social networking sites to oppose the proposal, Lieu said."

"Last week, Lieu told the editorial board of the Los Angeles News Group that the proposal to restore the 2 percent transportation system user fee would generate up to $4 billion annually for roads and public transportation. The fees, which currently stand at 0.65 percent of a vehicle's value, were slashed from 2 percent by Schwarzenegger. If it had been approved by the Legislature, the measure could have gone before voters in November 2014."

Less than a month after Schwarzenegger fulfilled his campaign promise of rolling back the "car tax", as the VLF is often called,  "(a) major Wall Street credit rating agency downgraded California's debt rating...to its lowest level in history, citing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's rollback of the vehicle license fee as a primary cause of its increasing pessimism about the state's finances", reported the San Francisco Chronicle on December 10, 2003.  By cutting the VLF, Schwarzenegger added $4 billion to the budget deficit.

Full Story: Calif. Democrats ponder their new power

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Irvin Dawid's picture
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Assemblyman wants Prop. 13 change for commercial property

Kevin Yamamura blogs on Dec. 06 in the Sacrament Bee's "Capitol Alert" that Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-SF) wants Prop. 13 change for commercial property.

Proposition 13, "the landmark 1978 California tax change, limits annual tax increases on both commercial and residential properties at 2 percent each year after a sale takes place. When property is sold, the new owner typically pays property taxes based on the new market value."

"Ammiano believes businesses are structuring property transactions specifically to avoid triggering reassessment at the sales price. (He) is not pursuing a voter amendment that would change Proposition 13 in the state constitution. Instead, he wants to write new laws that prevent businesses from avoiding reassessment in such a manner.

A new Public Policy Institute of California poll released last night shows that 58 percent of likely California voters support removing Proposition 13 tax limits on commercial property but preserving them for residential taxpayers. The Ammiano proposal would not go as far as that, though it is in the same vein."

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