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Without Prop. 13 California would be in worse shape

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POSTED July 17, 2009 1:30 a.m.
Proposition 13 has become the whipping boy for many playing the blame game for  the current budget deficit as well as the weakened condition of public education in California.

Some are going as far as saying there are few homes in California under Proposition 13 protection. That is blatantly incorrect. Every home in California is under the provisions of Proposition 13. The second a sale records, the home is protected by provisions of the 1978 taxpayer protection measure.

Without Proposition 13 in place, homes purchased in 2002 would have had their assessments go up by at least 10 percent by the end of 2003 based on sales data in Manteca. That didn’t happen because Proposition 13 caps annual gains at 2 percent. The one exception is after tax assessments have been rolled back as well happen his year on most homes that were purchased in a several year period before Jan. 1, 2009. If the market rebounds in a year’s time all of that comes back plus a 2 percent increase on top of that could be put in place.

What Proposition 13 detractors may mean is that there are few homes left that are assessed from the base year of 1976 as their owners haven’t sold their home.

There are a few such homes on the street where I live with the owners getting by primarily on Social Security. Most people would like to be able to live in their home when they retire. Capping property assessments allows that to happen not just for those who are in retirement today but future generations to come.

Imagine what California’s deficit mess would be like today if Proposition 13 was never put in place and market value reflected  tax assessment property values which is turn directly proportion all to tax revenue.

It would make the current California budget implosion seem like good times in comparison.

As Manteca Police Chief Dave Bricker astutely points out, that would have meant all property values would have been tied directly to market value during the past 21 years. On the surface, that sounds good but it would have made California government super dependent on property tax receipts. What is happening now with values didn’t happen in the early 1990s. We are experiencing the worst decline in market value of homes since the Great Depression.

Those values have roughly dropped 55 percent statewide. Can you imagine the chaos that would be taking place in Sacramento today if more than half of the property tax income disappeared overnight?

One could argue if Proposition 13 never passed the California Legislature in its infinite wisdom wouldn’t have hijacked property taxes so schools would be in good shape. Au contraire.

If schools were dependent on directly collected property taxes in each county as they were pre-1976, they’d be taking a 45-percent hit in funding making cutbacks today seem minuscule in comparison.

If you keep that in mind, you will understand that the budget crisis schools are now in is the fault of Sacramento, 100 percent. Voters in 1978 said enough to accelerating property taxes. They didn’t close the door on other revenue sources or changing state spending patterns.

That, of course, would have taken Sacramento overhauling state government.

You could say the current mess all started in 1978 but that is incorrect.

It started years before that when the legislature repeatedly promised — and then failed to deliver — property tax reform.

Proposition 13 is the direct result of ineptness in Sacramento.

How it has unfolded since then can also be laid at Sacramento’s feet.

The state has been hijacking money from cities, counties, and special districts for close to two decades., Not once did they opt to reform the system. They’ve had the audacity when revenue was rising above costs to not repay the local jurisdictions but instead institute new state programs and also mandate more costs on local government.

Blame Proposition 13 for California’s education and budget mess?

Try blaming those now in office and those who went before them in Sacramento. They have consistently passed on making the right choices in good times which in turn has made the bad times even worse.
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