A statewide survey commissioned by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association shows Californians continue to support Proposition 13 and the two-thirds vote requirement to boost taxes on property owners. By nearly two to one, voters agree that reducing the two-thirds vote to 55% to pass local bonds would place an unfair burden on owners of property.
Tone-deaf legislators have introduced a number of bills in Sacramento that would lower the vote required to pass new special taxes, per parcel property taxes and local bonds. But don’t expect lawmakers to honestly tell the public that these end runs around Proposition 13 are intended to increase taxes. The politicians would have you believe that all they are doing is trying to provide more “local control” for taxpayers. “Local control” sounds great, but examination of these bills reveals they are just schemes to make it easier for politicians and special interests that benefit from greater spending, to take more from taxpayers
Especially menacing to taxpayers is ACA 8, a constitutional amendment being considered in the Senate after narrowly passing the Assembly last year. ACA 8 would lower the currently mandated two-thirds vote threshold for local bonds to 55%, resulting in billions of dollars of new taxes being placed on the backs of property owners.
The Jarvis survey, conducted by the respected polling firm Probolsky Research, showed that if ACA 8 reached the ballot, it would face rough sledding. By a 56% to 31% margin, likely voters in the November 2014 election thought that easing Proposition 13 limits by lowering the two-thirds vote for local bonds would place an unfair burden on property owners. The question posed to respondents was as follows:
“California law requires that local bonds for roads, water projects, transit systems and public buildings be approved by a two-thirds vote of local voters. Unlike state bonds, local bonds are repaid only by property owners with a property tax that is above the one percent cap imposed by Proposition 13. There is a proposal to reduce the vote requirement from two-thirds to 55%, making the bonds much more likely to pass. Which of the following statements most closely matches your view?”
1. “Making it easier to pass these bonds is important so California can rebuild its crumbling infrastructure.”
2. “Making it easier to pass these bonds places an unfair tax burden on property owners. Government needs to do a better job of using the revenue it already receives.”
These poll results are illuminating. Not only do they suggest that voters believe they are overtaxed generally but, when they find out that a proposal like ACA 8 is actually an attack on Proposition 13, they are even less likely to support lowering the two-thirds vote. Should ACA 8 make it to the ballot — something the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is trying hard to prevent — we will make sure voters understand the damage it will inflict on Proposition 13 and property owners if it were to pass.
Average Californians want to see our state thrive and understand that making it much easier to impose higher taxes on homeowners and small business owners would be a move in the wrong direction, especially after taxes were increased by $7 billion annually last year.
The Sacramento lawmakers would be wise to take note that after 36 years, Proposition 13 still enjoys wide support among California voters irrespective of party affiliation.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.