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Letters: Prop. 13 dodges

May 11, 2013
  • Paul Gann, left, and Howard Jarvis hold up their hands on the night of June 7, 1978, after it appeared Proposition 13 would pass.
Paul Gann, left, and Howard Jarvis hold up their hands on the night of June… (Associated Press )

Re "Corporations get big edge in Prop. 13 quirk," May 5, and "Backers seek to tighten Prop. 13," May 8

Is it time to take on Proposition 13? That question comes immediately to mind reflecting on The Times' articles noting California's flawed framework for taxing business property.

As the articles make clear, there is a growing public understanding of the need to change how commercial property is reassessed for tax purposes. Billionaire Michael Dell's $1 million tax windfall on a Santa Monica property he acquired is one problem. More broadly, the system is biased against new businesses and has shifted overall property tax costs from commercial to residential property. Commercial property tax reform would improve incentives for growth, enable tax revenue to better reflect business property values and support investments in education, infrastructure, health and other vital systems.

And there are other, lesser-known aspects of Proposition 13 that have in essence frozen California's revenue at 1970s levels. Take the rule requiring a supermajority vote in the Legislature to approve tax increases. This means that a huge tax break enacted by a simple majority of legislators could be reversed only by a two-thirds vote.

In short, Proposition 13 has created a system of public finance that makes investing in the state's future difficult. As more Californians come to see this, we move closer to undoing the aspects of Proposition 13 that simply don't make sense.

Chris Hoene


The writer is the executive director of the California Budget Project.

Dell's methods can also apply to apartment complexes. This is partly why Howard Jarvis, then a lobbyist for the Los Angeles Apartment Owners Assn., spearheaded Proposition 13 in 1978.

My city's split on property taxes in 1977 was 60% commercial (including apartments) and 40% residential. In 2010, that split was reversed.

Jarvis' successors would undoubtedly warn again that homeowners face peril if the rolls are split. Tell a lie long enough and it will be believed.

Michael Miller

West Covina

California's property tax laws also contain loopholes for single-family homeowners. In some cases when a single-family home sale is from a parent to a child, no reassessment occurs.

This exemption allows members of one family who own a home continuously to escape paying their fair share of property taxes. And yet these families receive the same services as everyone else.

I voted against Proposition 13 and other loophole-ridden initiatives, and I will support reforming them when the day comes. But as a beneficiary of this exemption, I will continue to take advantage of voters' shortsightedness.

Robert J. Banning


Why is this so hard?

No matter how many layers of corporate legal fiction you pile up, there are humans at the other end. The corporation is just a societal tool developed and used by humans.

If a new set of humans gets a say over disposition of the property and is entitled to the revenue generated thereby, the property has changed hands and should be reassessed.

Branden Frankel



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