Dear Dan: You may recall from our last President’s Circle update that we predicted very rough waters for California taxpayers after the November election. Regrettably, we were right. Sacramento politicians are now trying to outdo each other in conjuring up new ways to tax California homeowners, citizen taxpayers and businesses both large and small. And, as always, Proposition 13 is in their crosshairs.
Before I discuss the challenges facing us, I’d like to thank you for your generous support of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and our affiliated foundation (HJTF). The continued support from you and other President’s Circle members allows us to engage in these difficult battles.
Prop. 13 Threatened
In the past, we have been able to stop most of the crazy legislative proposals and, fortunately, last year we stopped all direct attacks on Proposition 13. But things are different now. The tax-and-spend progressives have secured greater than a supermajority – third –thirds plus – in both houses of the California Legislature! What this means is simple: Under Proposition 13 it takes a two-thirds vote of each house to impose higher taxes. For the first time since Prop. 13 was passed 40 years ago, our adversaries now have that ability.
The greatest threat to taxpayers winding its way through the legislative process is Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) No. 1. ACA 1 would repeal one of the most important protections in Proposition 13 by lowering the existing two-thirds vote threshold for both local bonds and special taxes to 55 percent. The special tax threshold, which includes sales and parcel taxes, has been in place since 1978 while the two-thirds requirement for bonds has existed since the late 1800s and was reaffirmed by Proposition 13. The purpose of the two-thirds vote is to ensure a broad community consensus before government exercises its most draconian power – the power to tax. Moreover, the two-thirds vote requirement for bonds protects the property owners who must repay the debt long after the politicians who place it on the ballot are gone. It is important to note that the two-thirds vote requirement has not been a hindrance to higher bond debt as many such proposals have passed in recent years.
If there is any good news about ACA 1, it is that it would still have to be approved by the voters in a statewide election. Also, even is ACA 1 were to make it to the ballot, HJTA would be joined by a broad coalition of taxpayer and business organizations to fight for its defeat. Nonetheless, we hope we can stop it before then by appealing to more moderate members of the majority party that may be more sympathetic to the interests of taxpayers.
Threat to Commercial Property Owners
The second major threat to Proposition 13 comes in the form of an initiative measure that has already qualified for the 2020 November election. This is the so-called “split roll” proposal that would strip Proposition 13’s protections away from owners of commercial property. HJTA is a leading member of a coalition to ensure the defeat of this dangerous proposition that would impose an $11 billion property tax increase on businesses. Our coalition had success last year in defeating Proposition 10 which would have greatly expanded rent control in California.
HJTA Fighting for You!
As you know, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation exists to finance our litigation efforts as well as studies on behalf of taxpayer interests. At any given moment, HJTF lawyers are involved in dozens of lawsuits including those to protect Propositions 13 and 218, advance government transparency and accountability. Recent legal victories include a decision from the California Supreme Court that opens the door to further reforms in California’s dysfunctional pension systems, which are on the verge of insolvency. Speaking of the Supreme Court, Laura Murray, HJTF’s Deputy Legal Director, argued before the high court in defense of taxpayer rights to protest fee increases. The questioning from the justices seemed to suggest that they were leaning toward a ruling for taxpayers. We’ll find out within a few months.
More than ever, media outlets look to HJTA for our perspective on the full range of tax issues. Our media appearances and interviews are too numerous to list. Of course, my weekly column continues to be published in the newspapers of the Southern California New Group and I have been asked again by the McClatchy media group (Sacrament Bee) to be a designated “influencer” as we head into the 2020 election cycle.
Please accept our sincere thanks for your dedicated support in the defense of taxpayers. You are welcome to contact me at any time.
Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association – California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights. For more information, visit www.hjta.org.