Proposition 15 will hurt homeowners, too

Of the many propositions that voters must decide this November, one of the most contentious is Proposition 15, also known as the split roll initiative. One of the arguments advanced by the proponents is that it won’t have any impact on homeowners because it just raises property taxes on commercial and industrial properties. Can the proponents be believed? Not likely.

On its face, Proposition 15 appears to exempt property that is used for “residential” purposes. But homeowners have good reason to feel threatened.

Without question, the most immediate impact that homeowners would see if Proposition 15 passes would be an increase in the cost of living. California has the second highest cost of living in the nation behind only Hawaii. It is one of the primary drivers of why millions of Californians have fled the state for other areas where the purchasing power of their dollars — for housing, food and transportation – goes much further.

The Tax Foundation published an interesting study a few weeks ago about the purchasing power of $100 being dependent on where one lives. For example, states where $100 is worth the most, such as Kentucky ($113.77) offer a striking contrast to California where $100 is worth only $87.11.

Proposition 15 would impose higher property taxes on commercial and industrial properties in California of up to $12 billion annually. That cost would be imposed on every Costco, Walmart, Safeway, gas station and shopping mall in California as well as the 80 percent of small businesses that lease their property. Only those who are economically illiterate would think that those costs would not be passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices.

As destructive as the radically increased cost of living that Proposition 15 would impose on consumer/taxpayers is, it pales in comparison to the larger threat that 15 poses to homeowners. Specifically, proponents and supporters of split roll have made it clear that coming after commercial property is but the first step in their incremental destruction of Proposition 13 in its entirety – including the protections it affords to homeowners.

Nothing encapsulates this agenda more clearly than former San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s stated intention to destroy Proposition 13: “You know, if it takes an incremental approach, then so be it. You know, my tendency is to want to nuke it. However, one has to deal with political dynamics here in California.”

Other examples abound. In a July 23, 2020, column appearing in the Sacramento Bee, a UC Berkeley professor wrote an op-ed advocating the passage of Proposition 15 based on “equity” grounds: “Proposition 13 reform will be on the ballot this November, the first step to rolling back this pernicious law.” Translation: After we rob businesses of Prop. 13, we’re coming after everyone else.

Finally, a union leader representing teachers in Los Angeles said, “We’ve got to be able to pass [Proposition 15], as one measure, and then come back with another measure, and another, so we make the rich pay their fair share.” Of course, public sector unions view anyone who owns a house as “rich.”

These public statements reveal in stark terms the true intentions of Proposition 13’s enemies. Anyone who believes that the tax-and-spend interests will stop at commercial properties is either naïve or delusional.

In the words of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, we can either hang together or hang separately. It is therefore vitally important that all property owners step up to preserve Prop. 13 for everyone. If we lose Prop. 13 for businesses today, it will be far easier for our adversaries to come after homeowners tomorrow. Prop. 13’s enemies have made it clear that they will not rest until Prop. 13 is destroyed in its entirety.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.