The Times clearly points out in its editorial that it is a tax break for the rich that is causing fiscal problems and pressure on schools and public services in California. On the next day's op-ed page the state superintendent of schools calls it a windfall we can't afford, for "while only a few wealthy taxpayers will receive the windfall, all of us will pay the price in deteriorating schools, colleges, roads, health and law enforcement."
But this is just another step in the history of tax legislation in this state that has exempted the wealthy from their fair share for schools. One result, certainly, is the anomaly of the richest state in the union having a deteriorating and deteriorated school system. Proposition 13 not only capped the rise in property taxes for homeowners in a wildly expanding and inflated market, it provided tax breaks for banks, high-rises, land, mining, lumber and industrial complexes--for corporations and foreign owners--all the wealth of California. Local school districts and governments could not operate on such limited funds, with the result that the state had to take over. The state's money comes from income and sales taxes.
In the original state constitution, education was seen as the highest priority of state government, and the formula for financing education was that local districts would pay half through property taxes and the state would pay half. That plan has gone down the drain, and the operation of schools is now financed predominately by state funds at the will of the Legislature. And while wealthy developers have this neat little scheme whereby they tap future property tax possibilities to finance huge sky-scrapers and transform whole blocks of inner cities (the Community Redevelopment Agency), financing for the building of new and needed school plants is almost impossible to arrange.