Threats to taxpayers on the state ballot

By now, nearly half of all Californians have already voted in the general election. But that means millions have not and many of them may still be confused about the myriad of choices they confront.

This column is for those who may still be undecided on which propositions present the biggest threats to taxpayers and property owners. These threats will be ranked by order of the most dangerous.

By far, the most existential threat to taxpayers and the protection of Proposition 13 is Proposition 15, a property tax increase of up to $12 billion on commercial and industrial property, and on the small business tenants who rent those spaces.

Higher costs for business — large and small — mean higher consumer prices.

California’s high cost of living has already driven millions of middle-class citizens out of the state.

Moreover, the proponents of this tax increase have admitted that $12 billion won’t to satisfy their infinite appetite for tax dollars.

So, if Prop. 15 passes, homeowners are rightfully afraid of being next on the menu. Prop. 15 is a big “no” vote for anyone concerned about preserving Prop. 13.

Second on the “Hall-of-Shame” list for taxpayer threats is Proposition 19, which would nearly eliminate provisions in the state constitution that protect the ability of parents to transfer property to their children without triggering a big increase in property taxes. Prop. 19 is a billion-dollar tax increase on California families that also deserves a big “no” vote.

Third, we have the “deja-vu” initiative on rent control. Prop. 21 is virtually identical to Proposition 10 on the 2018 ballot that voters overwhelmingly rejected. Proposition 21 would change state law to allow radical rent control laws to be passed in cities that are already suffering from an inadequate supply of housing. California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office issued a report finding that expanding rent control “likely would discourage new construction” by limiting the profitability of new rental housing. Prop. 21 is a big “no” vote.

Fourth, in 2004, voters approved $3 billion for a publicly funded stem-cell agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, to support research into new treatments and possible cures for various illnesses. The money has been spent, and now the backers of Proposition 14 want voters to approve $5.5 billion more. But CIRM has been widely criticized for inefficiency and insider dealing. These new bonds would cost taxpayers $2.3 billion just in interest payments, drawing $260 million out of the budget every year for three decades. Proposition 14 is unnecessary and deserving of a “no” vote.

Next on the list is Proposition 18. Although it doesn’t look like a tax increase, Proposition 18 would change the voting age in California to allow 17-year-olds to vote in some elections. While some states allow this, California is different than other states because under Prop. 13 and Prop. 218, tax increases must go on the ballot for voter approval. These proposed tax increases are frequently on primary and special election ballots. Proposition 18 would allow high school students to vote on tax increases. This is unwise, so Prop. 18 should get a “no” vote.

In one of the few instances where there is something worthy of support on the statewide ballot, we are advising taxpayers to vote “Yes” on Proposition 22. In 2019, the Legislature passed, and the governor signed Assembly Bill 5, a law aimed at destroying the “gig economy” and forcing companies to stop using independent contractors as part of their business.

Realizing too late how stupid this was, the Legislature backtracked and began carving out exceptions for many industries. Not, however, for the ride-share and restaurant delivery industry. Proposition 22 was put on the ballot by Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash. It would create an exemption from AB 5 for the companies’ drivers, while providing them with basic benefits and protections. Many drivers for these companies enjoy being independent contractors. Proposition 22 deserves a “Yes” vote to allow them to continue doing so.

Finally, don’t forget all the local taxes and proposed bond measures on the ballot. According to the California Taxpayers Association, there are more than 230 such measures, each of which can have profound and negative consequences for taxpayers.

So, be sure to study your ballot carefully and vote for fiscal responsibility. If we don’t, this year’s propositions will be next year’s extra tax burdens.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.