PROPOSITION 13 TARGETED BY NEW GOVERNOR, NEW BALLOT MEASURE
California taxpayers are bracing for a battle following November election results that raise concerns about the future of Proposition 13 and the initiative process itself.
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom was elected governor, defeating San Diego businessman John Cox in the race to succeed outgoing Governor Jerry Brown, 80, who was term-limited and barred from running for an unprecedented fifth term.
Proposition 6, the citizen initiative that would have repealed the tax increase on gasoline, diesel and vehicle registration, went down to defeat.
Proving he was no lame duck, Brown prevailed in his all-out effort to retain the tax increase he signed in 2017. By a margin of roughly 55 percent to 45 percent, California voters said no to Proposition 6, which also would have forced politicians to seek voter approval of future fuel taxes and vehicle fees.
Nearly one million California voters signed petitions to put Prop. 6 on the ballot. But its fate was sealed when Attorney General Xavier Becerra changed the title of the measure from “Gas Tax Repeal Initiative,” the title of the measure when it circulated for signatures, to “Eliminates Certain Road Repair and Transportation Funding.”
Preelection polls showed that 60 percent of voters supported Proposition 6 when told it was the “Gas Tax Repeal Initiative,” but a majority said no to the measure when pollsters read the revised ballot title instead.
Reform California Chairman Carl DeMaio, who spearheaded the campaign for Proposition 6, said he may propose a new initiative that would prohibit politicians from changing ballot titles. He also noted that the Yes on 6 campaign was massively outspent by the opposing campaign, which collected huge donations from contractors and unions that stood to reap financial benefits from the tax increase.
Cox sounded a similar theme on election night, warning that powerful special interests had hijacked California’s government, and vowing to pursue reforms to put control of the state back into the hands of the people.
In one bright spot for taxpayers and property owners, Proposition 10 went down to defeat by a decisive margin. The measure would have allowed cities to enact new rent-control laws, even on individual homes and condominiums. Voters heard the message that Prop. 10 would make the housing crisis in California worse by discouraging the development of new rental properties.
But in an ominous sign for taxpayers, Newsom has said Proposition 13 is “on the table” in his plans to address the state’s housing issues.
Proposition 13 has already been targeted by a new initiative that recently qualified for the 2020 ballot. The measure would split the property tax roll in California and remove Proposition 13’s protections for business properties, allowing commercial real estate to be reassessed at market value each year. That would effectively raise taxes on businesses automatically as real estate values rise. Proponents of the initiative have named it “The California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act.”
“Prop. 13 remains under extreme threat,” said HJTA Legislative Director David Wolfe, who reviewed the results of state legislative races on election night. “Democrats will have at least two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the Legislature. The only question is by how much.”
With a supermajority in both houses, Democrats can pass tax increases and put constitutional amendments on the ballot without a single Republican vote.
The election results highlight the urgent importance of the work ahead for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. HJTA will be vigilant in Sacramento against efforts to burden Californians with even higher taxes.
Members of HJTA play a key role in this effort by supporting the organization, recruiting new members and making phone calls to lawmakers about important upcoming votes. HJTA sends regular updates by mail and Action Alerts by e-mail. To join or subscribe, sign up online at www.hjta.org.
“The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is more committed than ever to protecting taxpayers and homeowners,” said HJTA President Jon Coupal. “We are the only organization in California dedicated to protecting Proposition 13 and fighting to make sure Californians are never again taxed out of their own homes.”