NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 13, 2009

San Francisco County Assessor Phil Ting (D) has launched a statewide effort to revise a provision of California's Proposition 13, a state law voters approved more than 30 years ago to limit property taxes in the Golden State.  He wants to change how Proposition 13 deals with tax assessments on commercial property, says Thomas Cheplick, a contributor to the Heartland Institute.

However, Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, says Ting's effort is another attempt by left-wing politicians to get more money from taxpayers.  And Ben Zycher, a tax expert at the Pacific Research Institute, likes Proposition 13 as is.

According to Ting's opponents:

  • Survey after survey of voters in the state have shown that there is very little support for changing Proposition 13; last year, on its 30th anniversary, there was a survey that showed Californians would vote again for Proposition 13 as is by a two to one margin.
  • Many believe that it gives Californian taxpayers some protection against high property taxes.
  • Prior to Proposition 13, property tax rates would sometimes change completely and shoot up by 100 percent, so Californians have a reasonable expectation that if they buy property, they will have a limited annual property tax increase.

Furthermore, Zycher believes that if Proposition 13 is changed as Ting seeks, government will have less incentive to become more efficient.

"If Proposition 13 as is were gone, it would most likely mean in the short run a huge, nontrivial, wealth transfer from the private sector to the public sector," Zycher said. "It would (also) allow the public sector to delay real reform at least in the interim for some period of time. And, unfortunately, some people would start getting taxed out of their homes again."

Source: Thomas Cheplick, "San Francisco County Assessor's Tax Proposal Draws Fire," Heartland Institute, September 2009.


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