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03 Oct 2023

Proposition 13 was voted into law (and enacted as article 13A of the California State Constitution) in 1978 when 65 percent of California’s participating voters submitted their ballots in favor of the legislation that would forever change the face of property taxes.

Not only did this proposition rob California schools of billions every year, it effectively put a hold on future tax reform in the state by enacting a law that requires a two-thirds majority vote in the state senate for any tax law to pass.

The legislation freezes property value at the time of purchase with limiting annual assessment increase to no more than the rate of inflation or 2 percent, whichever is less.

Prop. 13, intended to protect senior citizens and fixed-income homeowners from escalating property taxes, has shown itself to be most beneficial to long-time corporate property owners.

Inveterate corporate giants like Hollywood’s Capital Records building and Disneyland pay a nickel per square foot in property taxes every year, while the average Californian homeowner pays more than 40 times that amount ($2.06 per square foot).

Public schools, including the UC, have been hit hardest by this law, but it affects the entire fiscal well-being of California.

Lack of funding has caused the quality of education in California to seriously diminished.

Legislative attempts at correcting this gross inequity have been unsuccessful, to say the least. A split roll alternative — which would modify Prop. 13’s tax restrictions so as to apply only to residential properties, bringing in billions from corporations and businesses — made it to the ballot in 1992. It remains the only attempt at reform to have made it even that far. Having achieved only 41 percent of the vote, Proposition 167 was defeated.

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