The late songwriter Jim Croce listed a number of imprudent actions in his “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim.” Along with staying out of Jim’s way, he included the admonition not to tug on Superman’s cape or spit into the wind. Croce might have added to his list the foolishness of taking on Proposition 13.
Promoters of an initiative to impose a $6 billion annual surcharge on both business and residential, property, for the stated purposed of fighting poverty, have abandoned the effort. A measure sponsored by former Board of Equalization member Conway Collis and funded largely by an order of the Catholic Church, the Daughters of Charity, will not appear on the November ballot, as was expected.
It is unclear to Prop 13 defenders why the effort was halted. Some suggested that the governor intervened, convincing backers that too many measures on the ballot would risk rejection of propositions he favored. Others suggest the all-powerful teachers union threatened to oppose the measure because Collis failed to include a payout to education. But it cannot be overlooked that initiative backers may have become discouraged because Proposition 13 remains extremely popular with the general public and voters are very wary of anyeffort – no matter how benevolent it may sound – to undermine Prop 13’s protections. Californians like the safeguards it provides by limiting annual property tax increases, allowing local voters to decide tax issues and requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to increase state taxes, a threshold that has not proven to be insurmountable.
Still, dismantling Proposition 13 will continue as a major industry in political circles. The special interests looking to pry more money from taxpayers, whose burden already ranks the sixth highest in all 50 states, will say and do almost anything to disable or eliminate Proposition 13’s taxpayer protections.
To undermine support for the tax limiting measure, tax raisers try to persuade voters that Proposition 13 is unfair. The “evil rich” and businesses do not deserve these protections, they say. Or, as is the case with the Collis initiative, they appeal to voters’ compassion by pointing to a sympathetic population like “widows and orphans” that will benefit from the proceeds of breaking down Proposition 13.
These special interests, including the unions representing government employees — that the Department of Labor says are the highest paid in all 50 states — will continue to use misinformation and disinformation to try to convince voters to turn their wallets inside out because they know if they are candid about their goal to raise taxes, their efforts will be as productive as tugging on Superman’s cape.
Taxpayers will need to remain vigilant because as long as the tax raisers believe there is the possibility they can put their hands on more taxpayer money, their deceptive efforts to destroy Proposition 13 are certain to continue.
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.