Dan Walters

Dan Walters
Observations on California and its politics
May 7, 2015

A political war over taxes that’s been brewing for nearly four decades finally erupted Thursday – maybe.

A union-led coalition of liberal groups launched a campaign to change Proposition 13, the iconic 1978 property tax limit, seeking billions more in revenue from commercial and industrial property owners.

The coalition, Make It Fair, declared its intention to place a “split roll” measure on the 2016 ballot, keeping Proposition 13’s limits in place for homes, residential rental properties and farms, but allowing upward revisions in taxable values on other properties.

The “maybe” qualifier is that, privately, sponsors of the measure indicate it would be dropped if many of the same groups decide to ask voters to extend Proposition 30, the temporary sales and income tax hike approved in 2012.

Their reasoning, probably valid, is that were the ballot to contain two major tax increases, voters might reject both.

There are also proposals for higher cigarette taxes and a new tax on oil extraction kicking around.

The backers of all the pending tax measures assume that 2016 would be a good time to make their moves because voter turnout in a presidential election year is likely to be much higher than it was in 2014 or will be in 2018 and that usually means a more liberal, pro-tax electorate.

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