Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
September 13, 2015

  • Unions want to change Proposition 13
  • Despite rhetoric, no proposal offered
  • Proposition 30 extension complicates picture

What’s in a word? How about billions of dollars?

Make It Fair is a labor-union-backed organization that wants to change Proposition 13, California’s landmark property tax limit.

It has been circulating a chart claiming that since it passed in 1978, the proportion of property taxes paid on “commercial” property has declined from 45 percent to 28 percent, while “residential” property’s burden has risen from 55 percent to 72 percent.

This seeming disparity is the core of the coalition’s pitch for creating a “split roll” that would preserve Proposition 13’s tax limits for residential property but make commercial properties subject to assessment upgrades and raise their property taxes.

Split-roll legislation, Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, was introduced, but would need votes from at least a few Republican legislators to go before voters, and that makes SCA 5 a nonstarter.

But back to those words “commercial” and “residential.”

Make It Fair and SCA 5 exclude apartments and other rental housing, whether owned by one person or a huge corporation, from their definition of “commercial and industrial” property, resulting in the dramatic shift of relative burdens cited in the chart.

The California Taxpayers Association, largely supported by business groups, offers a different definition of “commercial property” that includes rental housing.

By its definition, commercial property now pays 62 percent of property taxes, with the remaining 38 percent paid by homeowners.

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