Our View | Sacramento Has Prop. 13 Repeal in the Crosshairs

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By The Signal Editorial Board

California’s Proposition 13 is one of the most important taxpayer protection initiatives ever enacted in our state. And the evidence, past and present, bears proof that we need the protection.

Now more than ever, a runaway Democratic supermajority in Sacramento is bringing a voracious appetite to the taxpayers’ table, gobbling up revenue at every turn, and in many cases breaking promises to taxpayers on how the money will be spent.

Take, for example, the voter-approved Senate Bill 1, the 12-cent gas tax that was supposed to fund $52 billion in road and highway improvements over 10 years. 

Remember? The money was going in a roads and highways “trust fund,” or “lockbox,” or whatever device they could tell voters to assure them that the money would be spent as intended.

Many voters had buyer’s remorse over SB 1, and an initiative was placed on the 2018 ballot — Proposition 6 —to repeal it. But, Prop. 6 failed, thanks to a cleverly deceptive description attached to it by Democrat Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who dubbed it, “Eliminates Recently Enacted Road Repair and Transportation Funding by Repealing Revenues Dedicated for those Purposes.”

Gotta protect those revenue streams.

Then, true to form, Gov. Gavin Newsom heisted the SB 1 funds by executive order and funneled them to programs intended to address climate change.

So, your hard-earned tax dollars, instead of funding the road and highway projects you voted for, are going to the governor’s pet climate change projects.

That should inform your level of trust in Newsom and the Sacramento Democrats when you vote in November on the “split-roll” initiative.

In a nutshell, the split-roll initiative would strip business and commercial properties of the protections created by Prop. 13 in 1978. According to Ballotpedia, Prop. 13 “requires the taxable value of residential, commercial, and industrial properties to be based on no more than 1% of the property’s purchase price, with an annual adjustment equal to the rate of inflation or 2%, whichever is lower.”

Prop. 13 is the only thing that keeps your property taxes from spiraling out of control. And the people in Sacramento who want to get their hands deeper into your pockets know how much homeowners value that protection.

But they see an opening. If they can strip that protection from businesses — which may be an easier “sell” to voters — they can open up a new source of revenue, to the tune of $12 billion annually.

But who pays for that?

All of us would. Even if you don’t own business or commercial property, if the split-roll initiative passes, you’ll pay for it in higher costs of goods and services, and potentially in terms of employment opportunities, as businesses sick of the unfriendly California climate will continue to leave the state in droves in search of more tax-friendly, business-friendly locations. A study by Joseph Vranich of Spectrum Location Solutions pegged the number at a record 1,800 businesses in 2018, with their most popular destination being Texas.

Approve the split-roll initiative, and watch the businesses’ moving vans line up.

“But it’s for the children,” the Sacramento Democrats will tell you, claiming the money will be put in a trust fund or a lockbox to fund public schools and colleges. 

In fact, it starts with another fake initiative name. They’re calling it the “Schools and Communities First Funding Act.”

What utter hogwash that is. Time and again we’ve seen Sacramento can’t be trusted to spend our money in the manners promised. That lockbox is just a gimmick to get you to say yes. 

Don’t let them slip that into your drink. 

The split-roll initiative would be the first big step on a slippery slope toward gutting Prop. 13 altogether. California’s already overtaxed taxpayers can’t afford what would come next. 

We must resist Sacramento’s cynical attempts to strip taxpayers of the protections afforded by Prop. 13 — at every turn, no matter how many times they say, “Trust us.”

Because, after all, the record shows they can’t be trusted. 

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