Prop. 25: New Front in Long War Against Prop. 13

Proposition 25 is the latest weapon against Proposition 13 but backers don’t want voters to know it.

Statewide polls taken in recent years consistently show Proposition 13 to be as popular as it was 32 years ago when it passed with nearly two-thirds of the vote. While the general public supports the landmark measure with its limitation on property tax increases and requirement of a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to increase state taxes politicians and government employee union leaders continue to see Proposition 13 as a barrier to their draining every dime from taxpayers.

Writing about the campaign to pass Proposition 13 the measure’s author Howard Jarvis wrote “Virtually all of the howlers against Proposition 13 had their noses buried deeply in the public trough. They were on a gravy train provided by the taxpayers and they wanted to ride that train at the taxpayers’ expense until they reached the promised land of exorbitant pensions for the rest of their lives.”

Three decades later Jarvis’ description of Proposition 13’s opponents is still accurate — with one important exception. Those who would destroy Proposition 13 no longer howl against it directly. They have learned that the public will reject and ridicule their complaints. They have become more clever more subtle in their efforts to undermine Proposition 13. Now they employ other methods to soften voter resolve and convince the public to return more control over taxing and spending to the politicians and there government employee union allies.

Enter Proposition 25 a creation of ultra-liberal former Senator John Burton. With great fanfare promoters of this measure say it will not change the rules to pass new taxes — all it does is make it easier to pass the state budget — what’s not to like?

The two-thirds vote requirement to pass a budget which Burton and others want to lower dates back to 1933. It has served as an assurance that not only will both major parties be considered in spending plans but so too will all geographic areas of the state.

If all Proposition 25 did was lower the vote to pass a budget that would be detrimental enough but it also contains language that says that appropriations-related bills can be passed with a simple majority. To some legal experts this means new taxes could be approved using this loophole thereby circumventing Proposition 13. Add to that the fact that an easy to pass budget would allow greater spending — risking more debt for our state — and it becomes clear that Proposition 25 is a witches brew very damaging to taxpayers.

But that is just the “good” news.

Here is what Proposition 25 is really all about in the words of some of its promoters. Talking about eliminating the two-thirds vote for the budget and for taxes Senate leader Darrell Steinberg said “The question then becomes one of strategy and timing. Do you try to accomplish it all at once or do you set a two- to four-year to six-year plan that takes a big piece or two at a time to voters?”

And United Teachers of Los Angeles — a major backer of Proposition 25 along with allied unions CFT and CTA — tells its members “Further it will send an important signal that Californians believe in majority rule and will help set the stage for taking on some of the regressive elements of Proposition 13.”

To Steinberg Burton and the government employee unions the “regressive elements of Proposition 13” are the taxpayer protections it contains. If Proposition 25 passes we know what will come next.

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.