The new Legislature is dominated by pro-tax politicians who have a two-thirds supermajority in Sacramento. Bills that undermine the taxpayer protections in Proposition 13 have been introduced and are being heard in committees. If approved, these bills could cost every property owner thousands of dollars annually.
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BILLS THAT PUT A BULL’S-EYE ON PROPOSITION 13 AND TAXPAYERS’ WALLETS
Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4 (ACA 4), Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D—Yolo County): This amendment lowers the vote threshold from the Proposition 13-mandated two-thirds vote to 55% for the local imposition, extension or increase of a special tax to fund affordable housing infrastructure. Under this bill, the definition of a special tax includes sales and parcel tax increases, both of which are very regressive. California has the highest sales tax in the nation, and parcel taxes add hundreds of dollars of new taxes, every year for decades, to the one percent tax rate property owners already pay under Proposition 13. ACA 4 also lowers the vote threshold from two-thirds to 55% to approve bonds for affordable housing projects, as has already been done for local school facility construction projects. While all voters are able to vote on this debt, only property owners pay it. Lowering the threshold for school bonds has added billions of dollars of new debt on property tax bills since 2000. Considering that this debt is often on property tax bills for at least 30 years, maintaining a higher voter approval threshold is imperative.
Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4 is currently awaiting a hearing in the Assembly Local Government Committee. We will monitor the situation carefully if and when this bill begins to move through the legislative process. ACA 4 would require a two-thirds vote of both houses by June 30, 2018, in order to make the deadline for the November ballot.
Senate Constitutional Amendment 6 (SCA 6), Scott Wiener (D—San Francisco): SCA 6 allows for special taxes, including sales and parcel taxes, to be approved by local voters with just a 55% vote as opposed to the current two-thirds threshold mandated by Proposition 13. Sales and parcel taxes are very regressive, as both apply to all taxpayers and property owners equally without regard to income. Since voters will have to pay these taxes well after the local government representatives that proposed the tax will be out of office, requiring a higher vote threshold in order to establish some sort of accountability should not be an unreasonable expectation.
Also, in light of the recent imposition of Senate Bill 1, a $5.2 billion permanent annual gas and car tax increase, we question whether additional funds for transportation are still needed. An additional 19-cents-per-gallon tax by 2019 will have us leading the nation in gas taxes, especially after the tax is adjusted for inflation annually as Senate Bill 1 requires. In addition, vehicle owners will have to pay an average new car tax of $50 per vehicle, per year. By making it easier to impose sales taxes on Californians (we also lead the nation in sales taxes), SCA 6 will do nothing to ease the burden on the 20% of the state’s population that live at or below the poverty line.
SCA 6 is waiting to be voted on in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Senate Constitutional Amendment 3 (SCA 3), Bill Dodd (D—Napa County): SCA 3 lowers the two-thirds vote to 55% for local voters to approve library bonds. The two-thirds threshold for local General Obligation bond debt has been in place for 140 years. While all voters in a municipality vote on this debt, only property owners, a declining share of the electorate, pay them. This debt has served to push property tax bills as high as 1.2 or 1.3 percent, leaving us 19th in combined state and local property tax burden, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. However valid funding libraries might be, it shouldn’t come solely at the expense of property owners. Currently, 35% of Californians cannot afford a median-priced home. By making it easier to increase property taxes, SCA 3 will only make this problem worse.
SCA 3 is currently on the Senate Floor.
Senate Constitutional Amendment 22 (SCA 22), Ben Allen (D—Los Angeles): Lowers the two-thirds vote for local school district parcel taxes from two-thirds to 55%, a direct attack on Proposition 13. The two-thirds vote needs to be protected for property owners, because while everybody gets to vote on parcel taxes, only property owners pay. Parcel taxes are also very regressive in that every property owner pays the same amount regardless of the size or type of their property. In addition, there is no need to lower the threshold. A review of local parcel taxes on ballots since 2012 show that 74% were approved with a two-thirds vote.
SCA 22 is in the Senate Appropriations Committee, awaiting a hearing
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