Tag Archives: Property taxes

Proposition 13 Set for Another Jab


Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann
Howard Jarvis, Paul Gann and supporters celebrate the victory of Proposition 13 in 1978.

Proposition 13, overwhelmingly approved by voters in 1978, turned out to be not a mere voters’ initiative, but a cultural symbol defended by some and despised by others.

By placing a property tax cap on certain properties, Proposition 13 significantly reduced sources of revenue for a state that considers taxes lifeblood itself.

Never mind that the state devised a myriad other sources of revenue, and today stands #11 out of 50 in level of taxation – the focus remains on the loss of property taxes resulting from Proposition 13. Never mind that a 1976 court decision removed fiscal responsibility from school districts – the narrative remains that Proposition 13 destroyed local control of schools.

Because Proposition 13 enjoys some fierce defenders, the opposition has settled for incremental jabs rather than outright repeal. A significant blow will be attempted in the November 2020 election. The proposal would leave the cap on residences but remove it from commercial and industrial buildings in what has been called split-roll property tax assessment.

The California teachers’ union and others who view Proposition 13 as abhorrent are building a campaign war chest to support the 2020 proposal. Their narrative remains as it was in 1978.

The Just Vote No Blog recommends an article on California Political News and Views that provides a different narrative – Proposition 13 News: Split-Roll Proposal, Again.
If voters are to vote wisely, they need to acquaint themselves with the opposing views inherent in all proposals.

Enough of Taxes?

Jerry Brown and Howard Jarvis
1978 photo of Jerry Brown and Howard Jarvis observing the passage of Proposition 13

In June of 1978, California became a different state. Property owners revolted. They refused to continue to be viewed as the state’s ATM. Proposition 13 passed with nearly two-thirds voter approval. But, alas, legislators were not to be thwarted in their tax and spend routines. So, state taxes increased to fill the void, with some unbeneficial consequences such as state control of school districts and other local services.

Today, California is at a crossroads. Income, sales, and fuel taxes are among the highest in the nation, while public debt and unfunded public pension liabilities soar. Voters will need to choose to either repeal or reform Proposition 13 and open the floodgates of property taxation, or tie the hands of tax and spenders in order to force them to put their house in order.

Howard Jarvis once stood at the barricades and said enough is enough. His efforts led to the passage of Proposition 13. Nearly 40 years later, could the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association be at the forefront of another tax revolt, one that would lead to the lower taxes that could bring back the corporations and the productive workers that have fled the state? Can the HJTA lead a tax revolt that will prevent California from going the way of Detroit and now Chicago? Where do you stand? Can the HJTA count on you? Read the article: Don’t Let California Become Chicago.

Private Property – As Viewed by James Madison and a Facebook Friend

Private PropertyThe concept of private property — that which belongs to an individual and ownership of which is protected by government – appears several places in the United States Constitution, most prominently in Amendment V: “…nor [shall any person] be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”

The Papers of James Madison contain an excellent essay on private property. Here is a quote,

Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.

That said, that the only real function of government is to protect the property of individuals – including life and liberty, the ultimate expressions of property – Madison goes on to warn readers how government could fail.

That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest.

That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where arbitrary restrictions, exemptions, and monopolies deny to part of its citizens that free use of their faculties, and free choice of their occupations, which not only constitute their property in the general sense of the word; but are the means of acquiring property..

A just security to property is not afforded by that government, under which unequal taxes oppress one species of property and reward another species: where arbitrary taxes invade the domestic sanctuaries of the rich, and excessive taxes grind the faces of the poor..

The United States is awash in taxation; subsidies to everybody and his uncle; monopolies in the media, utilities, on-line “stores,” farming (think Monsanto). It would be safe to say that Madison would consider such a profile as of that of a government least prepared to defend anyone’s private property.

Here are more quotes. Not from one of our distant Founding Fathers, but from a current Facebook Friend commenting on a post asking “What do you dislike most about taxes?” Note the connection made between taxation and private property, as James Madison discussed.

money bagThe majority of the public don’t know anything about taxes, other than taxes come out of their pay check. The government performs thievery and then makes themselves look good by “giving it back” to the people. They take our money and then decide how it would be best spent, with our best interests in mind (hilarious!!!!). For example, let’s take a look at education. We pay school taxes (if owning property) and then the government decides, for us, how it’s best spent (ie. curriculum). They take the credit for offering educational services, WITH OUR MONEY! On top of that, they pick what we have learned and what future generations will learn (for as long as the Dept of Education exists). What better way to control the population by stealing their money and using it to teach them that stealing their own money is completely fine. It’s genius, actually.

Owning property. We don’t own shit. You buy a home and call it yours, but it’s not yours – we’re on a short leash. Pay off your mortgage and you’re still paying another, endless mortgage, in the form of taxation. Pay off your mortgage (“own” your house) and don’t pay your taxes… bye-bye house! But how? I thought you owned it? Ha. The public, in general, is uneducated and the highly sought after dream of being a home owner is a facade. The government wants you to own a home, so they can take more money from you.

Another Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, conveyed what our Founders intended as a form of government.

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Mello-Roos Taxes and the Peanuts Syndrome

LucysFootball 3Lucy yanking the football just as Peanuts kicks – the iconic image created by the great Charles Schulz will forever live in the public consciousness as a badge of trusting souls. No matter how many times Lucy causes Peanuts to tumble as he kicks into empty space, Peanuts trust Lucy to keep the ball in place the next time.

We the People seem to have acquired the Peanuts syndrome.  No matter how many times legislation morphs into other than its intended purpose, We the People remain faithful to the idea that the next law or rule will fix what went wrong.  The immutable rule of legislation is that every law grows to include more stuff.  Eventually the original piece of legislation becomes something else.  Examples abound; but here, let’s talk about the Community Facilities Act, passed by the California legislature in 1982, better known as Mello-Roos to honor the act’s co-authors.

California’s 1978 Proposition 13 chocked off the flow of property tax money.  Predictably, instead of developing fiscal restraint, the legislature established other ways to tax homeowners.  Mello-Roos was enacted as a quasi parcel tax, not subject to Proposition 13, to provide funds for public infrastructure in newly-created development areas.  Not a particularly bad idea.  However, as time passed, Mello-Roos transformed, with significant transformations occurring since 2010.

Senate Bill 555 in 2011 further blurred the distinction, never quite clear, of what was truly a public facility or service and what was private by authorizing the financing of energy-efficient improvements on privately-owned property.  Assembly Bill 2618 in 2016 included seismic safety improvements to what could be financed.

Lawsuits have not been successful in curbing the morphing of Mello-Roos.  The Pacific Legal Foundation filed a suit on behalf of the Building Industry Association against the City of San Ramon, asserting that Mello-Roos applied only to new infrastructure created specifically for residents of a Mello-Roos district.  The court ruled that existing infrastructure was also covered, thereby breaking the link between the services and the residents paying for the services.

A high-profile expansion of Mello-Roos is the construction of San Francisco’s Transbay Center, located within a highly urbanized and dense Mello-Roos district.  Among the community benefits is a magnificent transit terminal that will include inter-city transportation service, leaving little connection between residents of the district and the services provided by the development.

Yet, residents of the Transbay Center Community Facilities District will still pay the Mello-Roos tax in addition to their regular property tax.  Lucy strikes again.