It’s been one of the hallmarks of California politics for over 30 years, given credit for the state’s expansive economic growth over that time and blamed for the annual budget deficits in which the state is mired. Nothing is more guaranteed to stir up debate than mentioning Proposition 13, and more recently mentions of reforming the property tax initiative that has helped to keep tax rates low for both residential and commercial properties. With the ongoing budget battle as a backdrop, Gov. Jerry Brown was speaking to a group of apartment building owners and developers yesterday in San Francisco, lamenting his failure to convince the legislature to put tax extensions on the ballot for California voters to decide. Gov. Brown said that without that tax extension vote it might be time to target other sources of revenues, specifically commercial properties that have been shielded under Prop. 13. "If the taxes are not extended, I believe there will be efforts to accelerate the reassessment of commercial property, or other efforts,” the Governor said. Gov. Brown also acknowledged the political realities of Prop. 13 saying, “That’s the third rail.” It’s been an argument for almost as long as Prop. 13 has been in existence, whether commercial properties should enjoy the same tax benefits as residential properties, and now with California in a desperate search for new sources of revenue the debate is heating up again: should Prop. 13 be reformed?
Teresa Casazza, president of the California Taxpayers Association
Steven Sheffrin, professor of economics & executive director of the Murphy Institute at Tulane University; former professor at UC Davis where he did extensive research on Proposition 13 and tax policy