Proposition 13

By Phil Willon
June 10, 2015

Saying a major “loophole” allows some business to unfairly avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes, two Democratic state senators on Wednesday filed a proposed constitutional amendment to revise Proposition 13, the landmark property tax initiative approved by California voters in 1978.

The so-called split-roll proposal would require the regular reassessment of commercial and industrial properties, including factories, office buildings and other business property, to market value, while keeping current tax limits in place for residences and agricultural property.

Sens. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), authors of the measure, said the change, if approved by voters, could raise $9 billion in additional revenue for the state and local governments.

That money could be used for many critical needs, including the repair of California’s deteriorating roads, and could provide more money for schools and child care, they said.

“We have large corporations and wealthy commercial property investors that have used loopholes in the law to avoid paying their fair share,’’ Mitchell said at Capitol news conference. “We have large, multibillion-dollar corporations that actually have a competitive advantage over smaller start-ups, simply based on when a property was purchased.’’

Hancock said that when California voters passed Proposition 13 in 1978, about half of the property taxes collected came from homeowners and half came from commercial properties. Today, homeowners pay 72%, she said.

If approved by the Legislature, the measure would be placed on the ballot in November 2016. To pass the Legislature, however, the proposal would require a two-thirds vote, which means that it would need support from a few Republicans as well as support from moderate, pro-business Democrats.

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