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Jerry Brown bear hugs California’s third rail: reforming Proposition 13

Incoming California Governor, Jerry Brown, will tackle Proposition 13.
Incoming California Governor, Jerry Brown, will tackle Proposition 13.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

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There were cryptic comments made as he was heading into a meeting with local government officials: "[Prop] 13 started the centralization of power… after that, the state started dictating what we did,” said the new governor, Jerry Brown, referring to the measure that would start a nation-wide revolution on property taxes back in 1978. After coming out of the meeting, Gov. Brown expanded on his original comments, but only slightly: “It will be controversial and it will be a struggle. Proposition 13, because it took away the power of counties to tax, for the most part, it sent the decision up to Sacramento. So we want to redistribute all that.” Prop. 13 has often received the blame for California’s structural problems, which have culminated in several years of mutli-billion dollar budget deficits, but voters have showed no inclination to change the way their property taxes are calculated. Yet without more revenue, along with budget cuts, California will have a hard time closing this year’s $28 billion deficit and making long term changes to the governing model. While Jerry Brown doesn’t seem afraid to tackle California’s third rail of politics, are you afraid to talk about reforming Prop. 13?


Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Lenny Goldberg, executive director of the California Tax Reform Association