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Assessing the Value of Proposition 13

LETTERS TO THE TIMES

August 21, 2003

Re "A Higher Tax on All Your Houses," Commentary, Aug. 19: I have been bringing this topic up to my friends for months now. Thank you, Robert Scheer and Warren Buffett, for exposing the unfairness of California's property tax laws. Two aspects of this law, however, slipped under their radar.

First, if any of these multimillion-dollar homeowners were over 55 and were to sell their highly appreciated homes and downsize to, say, $1-million homes, they would be allowed, under Proposition 60, to grandfather the original tax assessments of their prior residences onto their new homes, hence realizing huge profits and at the same time paying taxes based on assessments of the first homes when they were purchased.

Second, many of the most expensive homes in California are second homes, but the tax laws assess property taxes on second homes on the same tax basis as owner-occupied homes.

Karen Wiechman

Los Angeles

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So, Scheer equates Proposition 13 in 1978 to the recall effort as being stupid, and billionaire Buffett thinks property taxes are too low. It's reassuring to know that Scheer and Buffett, two grandiose liberal thinkers, agree that California property owners should be taxed more.

I would suggest to Scheer that Proposition 13 and the recall effort were the results of a state government gone awry. In 1978, it was the uncontrolled annual property tax reassessments that forced undue hardships on real property owners. In 2003, it is the deceptive and overspending political maneuvering of our totally ineffective governor that has forced the recall. It seems to me that if Californians allowed these matters to proceed unchecked, they would then qualify to be called stupid.

Peter Griffith

Arcadia

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Having never voted Republican, I can only say thank God for Proposition 13. Back when it was passed, I was on the verge of being taxed out of my house. If Proposition 13 had not been passed, within two years my taxes would have been more than my mortgage payment.

At that time, taxes were based upon assessed valuation. In other words, we were being taxed on paper profit. Now, if we were reaping the benefits of that increased valuation at that time I could see paying tax on it, but for someone who had bought a house five, 10 or 15 years before, the tax would literally have eaten them out of house and home. So I, for one, as a lifelong Democrat, am totally in favor of leaving Proposition 13 as it is.

Philip J. Klein

Northridge

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Re "Don't Beat Up Buffett -- Prop. 13 Isn't Written in Stone," by Patt Morrison, Aug. 19: God bless Howard Jarvis and Proposition 13. It's the same old line; we're just not paying enough. Proposition 13 is one of the few defenses we have left. I don't care that I, who have lived in my home 14 years, pay more property taxes than my neighbors, who have lived in their house 40 years. Because of Proposition 13, I can still afford to live here. Leave Proposition 13 alone. If the freeloading, welfare-loving, liberal Democrats hadn't made this state the "land of the free and home of entitlements" we wouldn't be in as bad a shape as we are.

Marcy Ruffalo

Redlands

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Morrison is both articulate and perceptive in her analysis of Proposition 13. Like many homeowners in California, I could neither afford to purchase my home at market value nor could I pay the property taxes were it not for Proposition 13.

Clearly, it is not fair that businesses such as Disneyland and homeowners pay at the same rate. Yet if businesses were charged a more accurate tax, even more would flee our once-Golden State for Nevada, the Pacific Northwest and Mexico. Let us hope that a truly fair reevaluation of Proposition 13 will take place, resulting in a careful and fair tax. Remember the Boston Tea Party?

Roxane Winkler

Sherman Oaks

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