It is not an overstatement to say that a supermajority in the California Legislature believes that Proposition 13 must be destroyed. Over the last five decades, Sacramento politicians have become more and more progressive – many now openly embrace socialism – but even still, we have been able to keep most direct attacks against Prop. 13 from getting out of one or both legislative houses.
Not this year.
Here are a couple of the worst bills to get out of both houses this year.
Assembly Constitutional Amendment 1 is a direct attack on Proposition 13 that would remove the taxpayer protection of the two-thirds vote of the electorate required to pass local special taxes. This makes it easier to raise taxes, and your taxes could go up after every election. Although it passed, the good news is that voters will have the final say as to whether a key taxpayer protection should be eliminated.
Assembly Constitutional Amendment 13 is a devious attempt to stop the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act from passing when it’s on the ballot in November 2024. The Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act is our initiative constitutional amendment that will restore the Proposition 13 protections that have been eroded by the courts. But ACA 13 would create special rules that make it harder to pass citizen initiatives like this one. Like ACA 1, this ACA 13 too is headed to the ballot.
As CalMatters recently put it, in November of next year, voters are going to be asked if they want to make it easier to raise taxes, make it harder to raise taxes, and make it harder to make it harder to raise taxes.
Assembly Bill 28 would impose an excise tax in the amount of 11% of the gross receipts from the retail sale in this state of a firearm, firearm precursor part, and ammunition.
Taxing law-abiding gun owners that put safety first is not the way to address the problem of gun violence. It is inappropriate, and perhaps even unconstitutional, to excessively tax individuals wishing to exercise constitutional rights.
Assembly Bill 126 extends, from 2024 to 2035, several existing “fees,” including vehicle registration and smog abatement fees to fund alternative energy programs while also expanding the program’s scope. When these “temporary” fee hikes were last reauthorized by AB 8 in 2013, it was estimated that they would generate more than $214 million annually in higher vehicle related costs to taxpayers. There is nothing so permanent as a temporary tax.
AB 1228 and SB 525
Assembly Bill 1228 raises the hourly minimum wage for fast food workers to $20. Senate Bill 525 raises the minimum wage for healthcare workers to $25. While not a direct taxpayer issue, it is a government mandate that will significantly increase costs and we know those costs will be passed onto the consumer like an indirect tax.
AB 1256, AB 1679, SB 335 and SB 862
These bills raise the sales tax cap in Humboldt, Los Angeles, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. The only reason to increase the cap is to set the table for another increase in regressive sales taxes. These taxes disproportionally impact California’s poorest residents, and the state already has one of the highest state-level sales and use tax rates in the country.
Senate Bill 799 makes workers who have been on strike for at least two weeks eligible for unemployment benefits. California’s unemployment fund is already more than $18 billion in debt and now the Legislature wants to expand its utilization. Much like minimum wage hikes, because the unemployment fund is paid for entirely by employers, you can bet these costs will be passed onto consumers.
But even with all the bad news, there were some pro-taxpayer bills that came out of this legislative session.
AB 556 and AB 1500
Assembly Bill 556 and 1500 extends the five-year period to transfer base year values of property substantially damaged or destroyed by recent wildfires to replacement or reconstructed properties by an additional three years. HJTA was instrumental in bringing this issue to the Legislature’s attention.
Senate Bill 520 is an HJTA-sponsored bill that ensures the homeowners’ property tax exemption continues to apply if the taxpayer is not occupying their home because they are confined to a hospital or other care facility. Having your parents in a care facility should not make you ineligible for the intergenerational transfer – even if they otherwise satisfy the requirements of Prop. 19.
There was a lot of bad, and some good, that came out of the capitol this year, but on the most important matters, the voters will have a choice in deciding whether they want to keep all the protections that Prop 13 affords.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.