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Prop. 13 Turns 25, Still Causes Controversy

June 03, 2003

Re "Low Taxes for Some, Chaos for All," Opinion, June 1: Sound government fiscal policy, while exceedingly difficult to enact, is easy enough to understand: Don't spend more than you take in. That was one of the key messages we sent legislators in 1978. Too bad they didn't get it.

Proposition 13 corrected something that was clearly out of whack -- a code that taxed home-price appreciation before it was realized. By laying nearly every fiscal woe that has befallen the state since 1978 at the feet of Proposition 13, William Fulton and Paul Shigley are indulging in a fallacy known as post hoc, ergo propter hoc, or, "after this, therefore on account of this."

Mike Mathews

Palm Desert

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Re "California's Problem Isn't Prop. 13," Commentary, May 30: The most fundamental problem with Proposition 13, which is now 25 years old, is that with each passing year it becomes more and more discriminatory. Neighbors living side by side now pay vastly different tax rates for assets of the same value based upon how long they have owned their house. This is morally unjust. Proposition 13 discriminates against young, first-time home buyers and those who need different housing and choose to move versus those who stay in their home for years.

Controlling government spending is a serious challenge, since California bears one of the highest tax burdens in the country and yet faces a massive deficit problem. How much property taxes should contribute to California's tax base versus income, sales and other taxes is a valid point of debate, but once decided, the property tax on a particular parcel should be the same no matter when someone bought the parcel.

If property as an asset class is inflating too fast, so that appraisals are rising, then politicians should cut the rates for everyone as a way to maintain affordable property taxes for all.

Jeff Henley

Santa Barbara

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The most interesting thing about Joel Fox and the conservatives who defend Proposition 13 is that they never seem to notice that it violates one of the most basic tenets of conservative philosophy -- the one about local control and smaller central government. When Proposition 13 destroyed the ability of local communities to tax their constituency to meet their needs, it forced local governments to become dependents of state government for everything from schools and libraries to raising money for repairing their infrastructure. That reduced local control and increased the power of the state.

Sanford Thier

Marina del Rey

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