​Apology Accepted, But We Still Don’t Trust You​

The Sacramento Bee wrote, “Finally, war on Proposition 13 breaks out” and the paper is correct, attacks are coming from all directions.

Tax raisers, primarily an alliance of government employee unions and Bay Area radicals, are pushing attacks on Proposition 13 in the Legislature and through the initiative process.

In the Legislature, Senators Holly Mitchell and Loni Hancock have introduced a bill, Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, to alter Proposition 13 so as to increase property taxes on businesses. Then there is Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4 by Assemblyman Jim Frazier. ACA 4 would lower Proposition 13’s mandated two-thirds vote to 55 percent to increase certain special taxes.

On the initiative front, a measure that would increase property taxes on both business and residential property has been filed with the Office of the Attorney General.  With the benign title of “Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act” it proves, once again, that children are used like “human shields” by tax raisers to deflect criticism as they try to wring more out of already beleaguered California taxpayers.

As homeowners become alarmed at these developments and fear that the avarice of the tax raisers could once again threaten property ownership, just as it did prior to the passage of Proposition 13, backers of higher taxes are trying to dismiss these concerns as unfounded.  It is their version of “Move along, there is nothing to see here.”  But the fears are justified.  (You’re not being paranoid if they really are out to get you).

Those who did not experience the beating property owners were taking before Proposition 13 — with thousands of homeowners being forced from their homes because they were unable to pay  their taxes — should hear what former U.S Representative Howard Berman recently told the Los Angeles Jewish Journal.  Berman, a member of the California Legislature when Proposition 13 passed, said, “I don’t blame the taxpayers and the voters for supporting Prop 13.  Prop. 13 came about because the Legislature, which I was in, failed miserably to provide alternative tax relief to property owners. We made a terrible mistake, and that’s what led to a taxpayer revolt that led to Prop. 13.  We had the funds; we had a surplus at the time.”

Is this an apology? We hope so. At least Berman acknowledges how brutally property owners were being treated in the late 1970s, prior to Proposition 13, and that the politicians did not lift a finger to help.

While the former lawmaker deserves credit for candor, his remarks underscore why taxpayers have so little confidence in Sacramento.

Californians staged the 1978 tax revolt that passed Proposition 13 because they could not depend on the politicians, including Howard Berman, to look after their interests.  And with recent polling on the popularity of Prop. 13 at a near-historic high, it is clear that distrust of politicians hasn’t diminished much either.

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.