Our View | A Taxpayer-Hunting Wolf

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By The Signal Editorial Board

It’s a foot in the door. And a dangerous foot at that.

Proposition 15, on the November ballot in California, is the first attempt by the Democratic supermajority in Sacramento to roll back the important protections afforded to taxpayers by Prop. 13, a 1978 ballot initiative that protected property owners from onerous increases in property taxes.

If you’re a homeowner, you are probably familiar with the benefits of Prop. 13. When you purchased your home, your property taxes were based on the assessed value of the property. Under Prop. 13, increases in your property taxes are limited to an inflation-related increase of no more than 2% per year.

In other words, the county can’t just reassess your property, willy-nilly, and hike your property taxes. If it could, there’s a good chance many people would be forced out of their homes by skyrocketing property taxes.

Prop. 15 is the first step by the Democrats in Sacramento to unravel all of that. And, after a 4-1 vote this past week, the measure has the support of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors — with the exception of our valley’s supervisor, Kathryn Barger, who cast the lone dissenting vote. 

Recently, we applauded Barger for casting the lone dissenting votes in two board decisions: One to place a county charter amendment measure on the ballot to defund law enforcement by tying future boards’ hands with a preset 10% spending commitment to social programs, and another to continue the county’s commitment to spend millions of dollars providing taxpayer-funded legal counsel to illegal immigrants.

Endorsing Prop. 15 is the county board’s latest in a recent series of wrongheaded decisions, and again it was Barger who was the lone voice of reason and advocacy for taxpayers. We applaud her once again.

Prop. 15, the so-called “split roll” initiative, would tax “most commercial and industrial real property based on current fair-market value estimations, including some vacant land, eliminating the limitation on increasing assessed value,” according to a statement from Barger’s office. 

So, they’re not after your home’s property taxes — yet. But if Prop. 15 passes, give them time. They’ll be back, with their hands out, expecting homeowners to cough up even more cash.

And make no mistake: Even though Prop. 15 is being couched as only affecting commercial and industrial properties, who do you think will ultimately foot the bill for those tax increases? Hint: They’re not coming out of companies’ profit margins. The costs would be passed on to you, every time you buy a product or service.

“This statewide effort would be the largest tax increase in California history at a time when businesses are grappling with major financial repercussions as a result of COVID-19,” Barger said in the statement. “The ongoing closures and limited activity necessitated by the pandemic have significantly hurt businesses and employees. Rather than imposing another undue burden on our local businesses, we should look for opportunities to support their rebuilding and regrowth, which will in turn help our regional economy.” 

Barger is right. Prop. 15 is a wolf in sheep’s clothing — a wolf with very large feet, barging through your front door. 

Voters should reject it handily in November. 

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