Prop. 13 is working, reject Prop. 15

By Jon Coupal and Ernest J Dronenburg Jr | Come November, Proposition 13 faces its biggest political battle at the ballot box. It is instructive to ask whether that iconic tax affordability measure remains good tax policy for California.

As the just-released property tax assessments rolls from several California counties reveal, Proposition 13 is working exceedingly well at keeping homeowners and small business owners from losing their properties to skyrocketing property taxes, while delivering government a reliable source of revenue. Voters would be foolish to repeal one of its major protections this November.

Take San Diego County, for example. The assessed value of all taxable property increased to a record high $604.75 billion, more than a five percent increase over last year. Because the state-set “lien date” is January 1st, any potential impact from COVID-19 won’t show up in this year’s numbers. Nonetheless, there is little to suggest that the county will see any major downturn in the real estate market, notwithstanding the pandemic.

San Diego’s experience with Proposition 13, as with most California counties, should lay to rest the notion that Proposition 13 has starved local government of revenue. Since 1978, increases in property tax revenue for local governments have far exceeded population and inflation. And while California now has the highest income tax rate, gas tax and sales tax rate in America, we remain in the top third (17th out of 50) in per capita property tax revenue. In short, we are not a low property tax state.

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