PROP. 13 TARGETED IN NEW ATTACK
No matter how many times California voters express their strong support for Proposition 13, politicians and activists who want to raise property taxes keep saying Prop. 13’s days are numbered.
“The winds of change are blowing,” asserted a news story in the Orange County Register, after a reporter interviewed a representative of a Berkeley-based nonprofit who said the students he teaches at the University of San Francisco thought it was “crazy” that homeowners pay different tax bills for “identical houses on the same street, depending on when they bought.”
The Berkeley academic compared Prop. 13 to a policy of charging sales tax at retail stores based on the date that the customer moved to California.
In fact, homeowners pay property taxes based on the value at the time of purchase, not on the date of purchase. Like sales taxes, property taxes are calculated based on the price that the buyer willingly paid. Before Prop. 13, property tax bills in California were 2.67% (statewide average) of the current market value of the property. (To see how much you’d be paying in property taxes if Prop. 13 had never passed, visit our Guessing Game tax calculator at www.GuessingGame.org.)
Without Proposition 13, countless Californians would be hit with unaffordable annual property tax bills based on the market value of their homes or business properties, a factor that no one can control or predict. Thanks to Prop. 13, the assessed value of a property may not rise more than 2% a year unless there is a change of ownership, as defined by law. The tax rate is capped statewide at 1% of that assessed value.
But facts don’t stop the forces pushing for ever-higher taxes on California residents. Even the defeat of 2020’s Proposition 15, which would have created a split-roll property tax and removed Proposition 13’s protection from business properties, has not ended the attacks.
“It failed, but not by much,” the newspaper reported, echoing an argument that has been made by politicians, including State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. Even though Proposition 15 was defeated by a margin of 52% to 48%, and even though spending on education is at record levels in California, proponents of higher taxes are talking about trying again to pass a split-roll measure.
The news story reported on a newly released list of the top 20 Orange County taxpayers with the highest property tax bills in fiscal year 2021–22. It showed the Irvine Company in the number-one spot, paying $191 million per year in property taxes. In second place was Walt Disney Parks & Resorts US, with an annual property tax bill of more than $73.2 million. Both companies owned large tracts of land in 1978, when Prop. 13 was approved by voters. Subsequent developments and improvements on the land have been reassessed at market value as they were built, but activists told the newspaper that’s simply not enough.
Their longtime aim has been to dismantle Proposition 13, and it appears they may be preparing to try again.
Their efforts will not go unopposed. Thanks to the support of its Members, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association will continue to defend Proposition 13 on the ballot, in the courts and in the Legislature. HJTA will never stop fighting to protect California property owners from the destructively high taxes that would result if Proposition 13 was ever lost.