The special interests behind Proposition 15

Voter interest in the 12 measures appearing on the November ballot is growing as election day gets closer. This is particularly true with Proposition 15, driven, no doubt, by the media attention and the amount of spending by both sides on political advertising.

No one disputes that Proposition 15 would be the largest property tax increase in California’s history. It would alter one of Proposition 13’s primary protections, the 2 percent limit on annual increases in the taxable value of property.

But a common question voters are raising is who is responsible for putting Prop. 15 on the ballot and who is funding the campaign? It would be too easy to say that Prop. 15 is backed by the “usual suspects” who simply want higher taxes, although that is certainly true. More details are illuminating.

First, it is no secret that public-sector unions were behind the drafting of Proposition 15 (and an earlier version that they withdrew) and are now the primary source of campaign funds for the yes side. As their legally required campaign disclosures reveal, the California Teachers Association and their local affiliates are the largest contributors. Also listed in the top three is SEIU, another powerful labor organization.

CTA swears up and down that its only motivation is the best interests of students. While we have no doubt that individual teachers care very much for their students, keep in mind that union leaders have different priorities. Al Shanker, the former head of the American Federation of Teachers, a large national labor organization, encapsulated CTA’s approach best when he said, “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.” The motivation here is getting more tax dollars for salaries and benefits.

A recent publication from the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) reveals the true intentions of the public employee unions: “Passing [Prop. 15] in 2020 is key to winning the aggressive, comprehensive demands we will bring forward in 2022 full contract bargaining.”

UTLA has never been shy about flaunting its political power. A recent UTLA publication to its members said: “If we win this in November 2020 . . . our contract demands can be more aggressive and far-reaching.” And the union brags about its influence over the LAUSD Board of Directors: “The School Board is our boss. We have a unique power — we elect our bosses. It would be difficult to think of workers anywhere else who elect their bosses. We do. We must take advantage of it.”

Proposition 15 is also supported by far-left progressive and socialist organizations. In “Majority,” a publication of the Democratic Socialists of America, East Bay Chapter, socialist activist Fred Glass writes, “Proposition 15 offers California socialists an opportunity to raise class consciousness through an electoral campaign….The ‘tax the rich’ slogan — and its more precise corollary, ‘close corporate tax loopholes’ — helps get the conversation started on the right foot, opening the possibility for discussions about economic inequality and social class with voters, with the ultimate destination a conversation about why we need a socialist society to replace the increasingly dysfunctional capitalist mess we’ve been saddled with.”

Another large source of campaign funding supporting Prop. 15 comes from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Advocacy which has contributed more than $6,000,000 to the effort. And yes, if the name Zuckerberg sounds familiar it is indeed the same Mark Zuckerberg, who is married to Chan, who founded Facebook and has a net worth in the tens of billions of dollars.

If the Zuckerbergs want to give more money to local governments and California’s inefficient education system, perhaps they should open their own checkbook and fund these directly rather than spend millions on a political campaign.

These organizations and interests behind Proposition 15 and its $12 billion tax hike are many and varied. But they have one thing in common: When it comes to your money, they want it and they will use any means possible to take it.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association