One of the last saving graces in California is Prop 13, a ballot measure passed back in 1978 that restricted the tax rates on property, and is once again being attacked by progressive groups wishing to end it. Supporters of the “split roll” where residential properties would retain protections but others would not, have filed paperwork to put a split roll vote on the ballot in 2022. The paperwork was filed by the Service Employees International Union and United Healthcare Workers West, two organized labor groups.
Prop 13 has been described by many as being the “third rail”, meaning politicians on both sides avoid discussion of changing it. Even Gavin Newsom said in 2010 that Democrats and Republicans were opposed to altering Prop 13, “The political realities are such that Democrats, not just Republicans and Independents, are overwhelmingly opposed to making adjustments in terms of the residential side of Prop 13.” Newsom’s predecessor Jerry Brown said back in 2014, “Prop 13 is a sacred doctrine that should never be questioned”. Brown had criticized the way Prop 13 had been implemented as it was implemented under his first tenure as governor.
Currently, Prop 13 is still popular among Californians, even as the state becomes heavily controlled by the Democrats. A reform to Prop 13 was rejected by voters in 2020 by a 52-48 margin. In 2018, 57% of California voters said that Prop 13 was a good thing for the state while only 23% said that it was bad according to a poll done by the Public Policy Institute of California.
If Prop 13 is ended or much of it is gutted, more business could follow the likes of Tesla and leave California for a less-taxed state. While it seems unlikely that a split roll vote will make the 2022 ballot, it only seems like a matter of time until we could see a serious policy change in California.
Photo Cred: UCLA Library