By Richard Eber
It’s apparently not enough that Democrats hold every State office from the Governor to three quarters of the Legislature. Despite having this absolute power, they insist on creating misinformation in placing initiatives on the ballot to bamboozle voters
The latest victim of their corrupt actions is the attempt to repeal a portion of Proposition 13 passed back in 1975 that applies to commercial properties. Progressives would like to change the assessment of commercial property based on the original purchase price to 2% per year in a market price based system.
In taking in an estimated 13 billion dollars of new revenue, it is feared property and business owners would pass on additional property taxes to consumers and reduce employees to make ends meet
Instead of telling Californians of this danger, Attorney General Xavier Becerra placed on the voter pamphlet for this initiative to support “education and local funding”. This wording is intended to gain support from ignorant voters. Rather than properly explain this money grab that the California Chamber of Commerce described as a major job killer, Becerra depicts the initiative as one being for the kids and families.
In reality, if this ballot measure passes, it would in effect be a green light for Newsom to pay for additional social programs, benefits for undocumented residents, unwanted public transportation services, and paying down public employee pension debt.
Education funding would only be marginally effected as income generated by the repeal of Prop 13 would end up being switched around in budget items that would not be recognizable to the public. This is the way Sacramento does things. It is a sad narrative to believe that neither children nor local governments would greatly benefit if part of Prop 13 is repealed.
This is not the first rodeo for deliberate misrepresentation by the Attorney Generals for ballot measures. In 2026 then A.G. Kamala Harris killed a pension reform initiative. A similar ploy was used by Becerra in 2018 to misrepresent Proposition 6. Instead of being called “Gas Tax Repeal Initiative” it was replaced with the wording “Prop 6: Eliminates Certain Road Repair and Transportation Funding.” Even the legislative analyst refuted Becerra’s wording but to no avail.
With the new description and support of Gavin Newsom and his allies in organized labor, Measure 6 was defeated by a narrow margin. Despite the apparent victory, a great deal of animosity and collateral damage has resulted. It is thought that Newsom’s current fall in the polls for his job performance is related to opposing Prop 6.
Now we come to 2020. Voters throughout California are being asked to absorb tax increases to fund further local expenditures in transportation, education and local government. Where I live in Contra Costa County we have Measure J which would involve a half percent increase of sales taxes. Residents are already paying the same amount for a similar measure passed 12 years ago that was supposed to last until around 2034. As these funds are exhausted, consumers are paying for what is termed in poker to be “dead money” for the next 15 years.
Not everyone is going along with the current Yes on J program. Opponents say that “Most of the taxes I pay for local transportation improvements are wasted on things that don’t benefit people like me.” This is explained by public transportation that has experienced declining ridership in recent years. There is also discontent about construction of new bike lanes that few use that contribute to more congestion during commute times.It is also thought that the BART rapid transit system has been well funded from other sources should be financed by their ridership rather than new sales taxes. Meanwhile frustrated motorists are still waiting for road repairs to happen near to where they live
A big sticking point, especially among conservatives, is that sales and parcel taxes that are intended “for the kids” and fixing pot holes are actually going to pay for public employee pensions which are increasing every year.
Facing similar choices, don’t expect voters throughout the state to rubber stamp new taxes on March 3rd. If most of these fund raising proposals are turned down, expect fewer of these measures on the November ballot and beyond
Those on City Councils are reluctant to ask voters to increase sales taxes unless their polling indicates they have a good chance of passing. The defeat of the Los Angeles County Education bond measure from last year by a 54% to 46% margin has spooked a lot of politicians in the Golden State.
It is also thought with the State have a budget surplus in the 16 to 18 billion dollar range, this money might be better spent helping cities and counties with their budget shortages rather than putting more economic burdens on local communities.
This brings us to the repeal of limiting to 1% Commercial Property increases that Howard Jarvis championed as part of Proposition 13 in 1978.
The question is will progressives be able to pull the wool over the voter’s eyes once again. Despite the wording and intentional confusion of the ballot measure by Attorney General Becerra its backers are worried because initial polling shows it will fail by a wide margin. Because of this signatures are being gathered for a less stringent version. This Prop 13 Lite initiative is being championed by the less than non partisan League of Women Voters along with their union allies.
Whatever is placed on the ballot for the repeal of part of Prop 13 and other tax measures in 2020, look for a rebellion by those individuals who feel they are paying enough of their income to Sacramento and to local governments.
Even if said voters are asked to give more revenue “for the kids” or fix pot holes, look for them to resemble the angry attitude of the electorate in 1978 when the Original Jarvis Gann Initiative was passed. In the words of Pete Townshend of The Who, I “Won’t be fooled again.”
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.
Richard Eber studied journalism at the University of Oregon. He writes about politics, culture, education restaurants, and was former city and sports editor of UCSB Daily. Richard is president of Amerasa Rapid Transit, a specialized freight forwarder.