A few weeks ago, this column recounted how progressive labor interests and their allies in government have stacked the deck against taxpayers in their efforts to qualify and pass the infamous “split roll” initiative. The measure, entitled the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act of 2020, would remove one of Proposition 13’s most important protections — the limitation on annual increases in taxable value — from business and commercial properties. The increased tax burden would be passed along to consumers and taxpayers who are already struggling with California’s high cost of living.
Proponents of this massive $12 billion property tax increase have surpassed collecting 25 percent of the signatures needed to place the measure on the November 2020 ballot.
One-party rule in California allows the proponents of split roll to tip the scales in their favor in two significant ways.
First, rather than discharge his duties to prepare a fair and objective title and summary for the initiative petitions, Attorney General Xavier Becerra has, once again, revealed himself to be little more than a partisan politician. The biased title he assigned for the initiative petitions themselves does not say that the measure increases taxes, merely that it “increases funding” by “changing tax assessment.”
Is it really so hard to simply say, “increases property taxes?”
In response to Becerra’s failure to discharge his fiduciary duty in a fair and impartial manner, the taxpayer coalition opposing the measure has put him on notice that, unless the title and summary prepared for the actual ballot material is changed from the “circulating” title on the petitions, they would seek a remedy in the courts.
The second way proponents are deceiving voters is by misrepresenting what the measure does as they continue to gather signatures for qualification. As noted above, the proposal repeals in part an important protection of Prop. 13, resulting in billions in higher property taxes every year. And yet, those collecting signatures have put signs on their tables in front of supermarkets and shopping malls that say “Protect Proposition 13” as if the measure actually benefited taxpayers and property owners. Putting it bluntly, this is an abject lie.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has received hundreds of reports of signature gatherers who have set up tables outside of major shopping venues with signs that read “Sign Here to Protect Prop. 13” or similar messages. Countless voters have been tricked into signing petitions based on these misrepresentations.
Fortunately, these voters have the option to remove their signatures from petitions they were misled into signing.
To assist voters with this process, HJTA has launched an informational campaign. Instructions on how to remove your signature can be found on the HJTA website at www.HJTA.org. Look for the flashing red light at the top of the page that reads, “Find Out” (if you have mistakenly signed a petition for an initiative that would raise property taxes). Click the flashing light to learn all you need to know to rescind a signature from a petition you didn’t mean to sign. Taxpayers can also help in spreading the word to their friends and neighbors who may also have been deceived.
But the best way concerned voters and taxpayers can avoid being tricked into signing a bad initiative is to sign nothing. It is important to realize that there are no initiative petitions currently being circulated that benefit taxpayers! If any signature gatherer tries to tell you that a current initiative petition protects Prop. 13, or that they are representing the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, it’s a lie.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (hjta.org).