As California continues to fight the financial repercussions of an ongoing pandemic, wrestles with a historic housing crisis and barrels into an all-too-familiar record-breaking fire season, there is rightful worry among residents on how to mitigate the damage without digging deeper in taxpayer pockets. On Nov. 3, California voters will have their chance to potentially temper some of these stresses by voting on an initiative that was designed to assist in these very areas.
Proposition 19, The Home Protection for Seniors, Severely Disabled, Families, and Victims of Wildfire or Natural Disasters Act, as its name suggests, will provide real, tangible protection for seniors, people with disabilities, and victims of natural disasters and wildfires, through substantial tax savings, while at the same time providing revenue to local governments and creating a dedicated fire protection fund that cannot be raided by politicians.
Sen. Scott Wilk voted for the measure that became Prop. 19 in the Legislature because it will help millions of his constituents. Family farmers benefit by receiving a property tax break when the property is transferred from parents to children, saving them thousands of dollars annually.
Wilk also recognizes that 21% of his district is over age 55 and many of them are struggling. Prop. 19 allows for these seniors to transfer their property tax base to any home, anywhere in California, up to a maximum of three times. This flexibility for seniors is imperative. They should not be forced to live in one house for decades at the end of their lives, and should be able to move without property tax penalty to be closer to better medical care, friends and family, and a host of other reasons.
Wildfires are also common in northern L.A. County and California continues to be in deep need of multi-faceted relief. Thankfully, Prop. 19 will add tens of millions of dollars of annual critical revenue for fire protection and emergency response throughout California with the development of a dedicated fund. Prop. 19 also aids victims of natural disasters, including wildfires, by allowing them to transfer their property tax base regardless of age.
Those with permanent disabilities would also benefit from Prop. 19’s tax rate mobility, as they would also be able to move up to three times without penalty, again regardless of age. No one struggling with disability should ever have to choose between paying higher property taxes and living in a home that could pose a risk to their health. Sen. Wilk has been a champion of those with developmental disabilities during his time with the Legislature. Easter Seals has awarded him their Senate Champion Award in 2018.
With these benefits, it’s no surprise that Prop. 19 has rightfully drummed up support from Democrats, Republicans, senior and disability rights groups, firefighters, school districts and business groups across the state. As a former legislative director for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, I can assure voters that Prop. 19 is the biggest benefit to taxpayers on the ballot this year.
So where is the added revenue coming from, if there is not a tax increase? Prop. 19 closes a manipulated loophole from a 1980s proposition that has kept hundreds of millions in revenue from benefiting residents and mainly benefiting celebrities, out-of-state investors and the ultra-wealthy.
Prop. 19 also protects the constitutional right of parents and grandparents to pass their family home onto their children and grandchildren for use as a primary residence without a tax increase, and directs the added revenue from closing the loophole to the creation of the dedicated firefighting fund and to support local government.
On Nov. 3, California voters have a chance to fix some of the broken pieces of the state by voting yes on Prop. 19. No other ballot initiative addresses the housing crisis, the financial distress from the impacts of COVID-19, and provides funds to save homes and lives from yet another catastrophic fire season, all without an increase or change to tax rates. This is why I am proudly supporting Prop. 19.
David Wolfe is a former legislative director at the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.