Howard Jarvis, chief sponsor of the controversial Proposition 13, signals victory as he casts his own vote at the Fairfax-Melrose precinct.” June 1978. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times
It has been 30 years ago today that California voters approved tax reduction initiative, Proposition 13.
Thirty years ago today, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 13 as a way to keep seniors from losing their homes to skyrocketing property taxes. But the 1978 vote also ignited a revolution that dramatically changed the way people across America look at government and taxes.
The grassroots initiative has saved California property owners billions of dollars since it was passed, but the shackles Prop. 13 put on the ability of state and local governments to increase taxes could turn out to be its most important legacy. Even today, with the state facing a $17 billion budget shortfall, tax increases face certain opposition from many legislators and voters.
“Clearly, the Prop. 13 movement had the general attitude … that government and its ability to tax people isn’t to be trusted,” said Mark Baldassare, head of the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. “That’s very much the theme that Ronald Reagan picked up when he ran for president in 1980, and it’s had a dramatic impact on national politics, particularly on the Republican side.”
Flap remembers the election well and was a California voter who voted to approve Proposition 13. Average Californians were struggling to pay their property taxes as each county trumped each other to reassess property and change the property tax rates to atone for spending mismanagement.
This fiscal mismanagement continues today with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s $17 billion deficit laden budget. God only knows what tax rates would be today if Proposition 13 had not passed and started a nationwide tax revolt.
California’s LEFT continues to rail against the measure even after thirty years. Look at the pieces at the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times who both editorially opposed the June 1978 vote.
But, today’s polls show Californians still very much in favor of Proposition 13.
Across the state, 57 percent of voters said they would vote for Prop. 13 if it was on the ballot today while just 23 percent would vote against the measure. Support for the initiative was even stronger among homeowners, with 64 percent saying they support it.
About 79 percent of homeowners who bought their current homes prior to the passage of Prop. 13 said they support it.
“It’s always been popular,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of Field Poll. “And for many years, political insiders have considered Prop. 13 as a third rail of California politics. You just cannot touch it or if you do, you’ll be electrocuted. And this poll is another confirmation of that.”
The California Field Poll on Proposition 13 is here.
- Sixty-six percent oppose a plan to gradually raise property taxes of longtime property owners so that they would pay rates similar to those who recently bought homes.
- Seventy-eight percent oppose amending Prop. 13 so that local governments can increase property taxes by more than 2 percent per year.
- About 70 percent of voters strongly object to the idea of amending a provision in the Prop. 13 that requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to increase taxes.
Howard Jarvis with Proposition 13 started an era of limited government and tax limitation. It has also fueled a real estate boom in California over three decades.
However, California politicians have NOT learned the lessons of 1978. And, this will be to their political peril.
After thirty years, the “dream” of Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann lives on.