Tag: Proposition 13

California Appeals Court Upholds Proposition 13 – Yet Again

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Howard Jarvis, chief sponsor of California Proposition 13, signals victory as he casts his own vote at the Fairfax-Melrose precinct, June 1978

Photo Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

Proposition 13, the landmark 1978 California Property Tax Limitation initiative has been sustained by the California Appeals Court again.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles on Tuesday denied, without comment, an appeal of a lower court decision rejecting a challenge to the measure from Charles Young, the former chancellor of the UCLA campus.

Although Proposition 13 was upheld by the state Supreme Court shortly after its passage, Young contended that by requiring a two-thirds legislative vote for imposing new taxes, the measure constituited a “revision” of the state constitution that could not be enacted by voters.

But, the appellants could take their case now to the California Supreme Court. This is likely and the result will be the same.

Proposition 13 will be sustained.

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Flap’s California Morning Collection: March 13, 2012

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Los Angeles Marathon at Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills

Photo Credit: LA Marathon Facebook

Good Tuesday morning!

The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.

Jon Fleischman’s FlashReport is little-read but much-feared

The FlashReport and a few other sites, including middle-of-the-road Rough & Tumble (www.rtumble.com), offer an up-close view of California politics once available only from the mainstream media. Fleischman stands apart, though, because he both covers the establishment and works inside it as a former executive director of the California Republican Party and a consultant to myriad candidates and causes. 

“I’m not only Jane Goodall, who’s looking at the monkeys, I actually am one of the monkeys,” Fleischman said in an interview at his Newport Beach office. “The monkeys will talk to another monkey before they will talk to a reporter.” 

His insider’s niche enabled the FlashReport to be first on the story when, for instance, a clutch of GOP congressmen recently decided to leave office. It also helped Fleischman sniff out evidence that a Democrat who hoped to run for a Central Valley state Senate seat didn’t live in the district. 

Fellow Republicans praise Fleischman for dogged self-creation and ideological purity. U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) described him as a bellwether on “the heart of conservative party activism.”

Chamber takes no position on Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax plan; opposes rivals

The California Chamber of Commerce announced its opposition today to two of Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax rivals but remained silent on the governor’s own plan, tacitly giving his proposal a boost as he tries to thin the field.

The Chamber’s board voted to oppose a tax on millionaires circulated by the California Federation of Teachers, as well as a progressive income tax hike on most earners backed by wealthy attorney Molly Munger. It did not take a vote on Brown’s initiative, according to Chamber president and CEO Allan Zaremberg.

“I can just say we wanted to take up those things we felt were urgent to position on, and we’re opposing these two tax measures along with a couple of other things members asked us to take a leadership role in,” Zaremberg said.

Brown has asked industry groups to at least remain neutral on his plan to raise taxes on sales and high-income earners, and he has tried to portray his plan as unique for its lack of business opposition. But CFT has shown little indication of vacating its measure and donated another $1.15 million toward its signature-gathering drive this month, according to a statement filed today.

Brown seeks tax-hike support from police chiefs

Gov. Jerry Brown appealed Monday to chiefs of police for support of his November tax initiative, even as he conceded the ballot likely will be crowded with tax proposals.

Brown noted that his plan is the only one of the three proposals that would dedicate some of the revenue to local law enforcement.

His address to the California Police Chiefs Association came as Brown faces significant hurdles in his bid to persuade voters to approve his measure, which would raise the state sales tax by half a cent for four years and increase the income tax on those making more than $250,000 a year for five years.

The biggest challenge could come from competing proposals that seek similar ends but could confuse voters and end in defeat.

“We’ve got a plan. There will be other plans, but at the end of the day we’ve got to get the choice. And I think people will make the right choice if people who know speak out,” Brown said at an annual awards ceremony for community policing programs.


Bankruptcy not ruled out to solve Fresno’s financial crisis

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin on Monday warned that the city is in “severe financial stress” that demands immediate action and presented a 10-year plan calling for more concessions from city workers.

But the presidents of the city’s two public-safety unions said they sense Swearengin is being overly dramatic for political reasons, and urged the public to get all the facts before choosing sides.

Fresno’s budget season has come early this year, and it’s already turning into a war.

At a morning City Hall news conference where she was joined by City Manager Mark Scott, Swearengin warned that “there is no Plan B” to the cost reductions, and Scott warned that even bankruptcy could not be ruled out if expenses don’t come down.

“It is not in our employees’ best interest for their employer to be so financially unstable,” Swearengin said. “I hope they will see that.”

The plan, which lays out the city’s financial health, projects a skyrocketing long-term deficit if cost-cutting measures are not taken. The deficit would be $15.1 million in 2013 and rise to $65.8 million by 2017. The causes for the red ink include the national economic downturn, unsuccessful city investments and “unaffordable future commitments to labor groups and others.”

Those less-than-stellar investments include Granite Park, the former Fresno Metropolitan Museum and an overly ambitious downtown baseball stadium. Each of them saddled the city with long-term debt.


Dan Walters: Proposition 13’s ‘third rail of politics’ touched in Capitol

Proposition 13, the landmark property tax limit voters enacted 34 years ago, has been termed the “third rail” of California politics – to touch it is to commit political suicide.

The measure passed overwhelmingly, and recent statewide polls indicate that it’s still very popular with voters, the vast majority of whom are homeowners who benefit from its provisions.

Jerry Brown, who was governor when Proposition 13 passed, is very aware of its iconic status. He opposed it then, but after its passage, quickly proclaimed himself to be a “born-again tax cutter” and championed a state income tax cut.

Brown, governor again, lightly touched on Proposition 13’s history Monday while touting higher sales and income taxes to local police chiefs.

He lamented that as the state “stepped in with a bailout” of local governments and schools after Proposition 13’s passage, it became increasingly dependent on income taxes, which tend to rise and fall steeply, contributing to chronic budget deficits.

Brown’s remarks were just a tuneup for a fuller debate over taxes in the Capitol later Monday, keyed to efforts to change Proposition 13’s provisions that would keep its limits on homes, but allow taxes on business property to rise.

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Flap’s California Morning Collection: October 26, 2011

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Hollywood, California

The California Legislature is not in session today.

California Governor Jerry Brown will announce proposed changes to public employee pensions tomorrow.

Gov. Jerry Brown will give lawmakers his plan for pension changes on Thursday, the governor said in a letter to legislators this afternoon, though it remains unclear what Brown will propose.

“Given the paramount importance of pensions to both taxpayers and public employees, it is absolutely critical that we carefully examine our current assumptions and practices,” Brown said in a letter to Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, and Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena. “We have to do our best to make sure that we have a system that is fair and truly sustainable over the long time horizon that our pension and health systems require.”

The Democratic governor has said for weeks that he would propose pension changes this fall. He recently said some of them will require a constitutional amendment and a vote of the people.

In Southern California, public employee pension reform comes to the forefront.

California’s public pension debate moves to the south state, where a new legislative committee will look at recent changes and options for fiscal stability.

Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod of Chino and Assemblyman Warren Furutani of Gardena, both Democrats, are chairing the informational hearing, which runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Carson City Council Chambers.

Several union representatives and lobbyists are among the scheduled speakers at today’s hearing. They include Yvonne Walker, president of SEIU Local 1000; Rich Brandt, president of Long Beach Firefighters; and Dave Low, executive director of the California School Employees Association.

Also listed are representatives of CDF Firefighters, California Association of Highway Patrolmen, California State Association of Counties, California Special Districts Association, SEIU California, the State Association of County Retirement Systems, AFSCME California, the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association, the California Teachers Association and the Association of California School Administrators.

Other perspectives will come from Desi Rodrigues of the Department of Personnel Administration, Santa Monica city manager Rod Gould, Ann Boynton of California Public Employees’ Retirement System and Ed Derman of California State Teachers’ Retirement System.

The hearing will be streamed live on the city of Carson’s website, http://ci.carson.ca.us/content/livebroadcast.asp. Members of the group Californians for Retirement Security will hold a news conference outside City Hall at 9:15 a.m. before the hearing starts.

On to today’s headlines:

Death penalty ban could go to voters

California voters have consistently supported the death penalty, and even in 1986 tossed out a state Supreme Court justice who opposed it.

But foes of capital punishment sense the tide may be turning as they prepare to begin gathering signatures on a proposed initiative that seeks to replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In San Diego County, backers of the ballot proposal will unveil their campaign plans today. Supporters include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Office of Social Ministry for the Catholic Diocese, NAACP and some retired judges.

They plan to urge voters to rethink the death penalty by arguing it’s a drain on the state budget, takes between 25 to 30 years to carry out and runs the risk of executing the innocent.

Statewide, organizers must gather slightly more than 500,000 signatures of registered voters by March 18 to qualify the initiative for the November 2012 ballot.

“The death penalty serves no useful purpose. It is not a deterrent and it is horrendously expensive,” said retired Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, whose office prosecuted dozens of capital cases when he was there.

Most rank-and-file police and district attorneys remain adamant that the death penalty is a deterrent and provides some measure of closure for families of victims. Advocates for victims rights seethe at the thought of not carrying out the ultimate penalty.

“We can’t put a price on justice,” argued Cory Salzillo, who represents a coalition of district attorneys opposed to eliminating the death penalty.

Dan Walters: Financial facts don’t back anti-Proposition 13 propaganda

It’s an article of faith – indeed, blind faith – among those on California’s political left that the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 began the state’s downward spiral.

Before voters limited property taxes, they say, California was a paradise of well-financed public services, but since then has evolved into something like Mississippi, in which a tiny, selfish overclass oppresses a burgeoning, mostly nonwhite underclass.

Indeed, one leftish critic titled his book, “Paradise Lost.”

The anti-Proposition 13 propaganda always becomes louder when the economy is in recession and government budgets face big deficits, as they do now. It found an outlet in a recent Bloomberg wire service article that, in effect, blamed Proposition 13 for everything awry in California.

The problem with the anti-Proposition 13 hypothesis, however, is that financial facts don’t support it.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

In 1977-78, according to the State Board of Equalization, schools and local governments collected $10.3 billion in property taxes. The amount plummeted to $4.9 billion in 1978-79 as Proposition 13 cut the average property tax rate by more than half.

By 2010-11, however, property tax collections had risen to precisely 10 times as much – $49 billion per year – due to new construction and re-evaluation of existing property, even though the property tax rate was fixed at slightly over 1 percent.

During that same 33-year period, state general fund revenue, principally sales and income taxes, increased sevenfold – scarcely two-thirds the property tax revenue growth rate.

Incidentally, inflation and population growth combined were about 400 percent during that same period, less than half the expansion in property taxes.

Obviously, the assertion that Proposition 13 has been an unconscionable barrier to revenue growth doesn’t hold up. But what about the oft-voiced argument that our property taxes are out of whack with those of other states?

According to Tax Foundation data, California’s property tax burden is the nation’s 15th highest as a proportion of homeowners’ personal income at 3.59 percent, well above the national average of 3.03 percent. The reason: California’s below-average property tax rate is more than offset by its above-average property values.

Herdt: A new look at taxing business property

Among advocates for public schools, universities, parks and other state services that have been the victims of substantial state spending reductions, a hunt is on these days for a tax increase that would both generate the substantial revenue needed to prevent further cuts and also be able to win the support of economically battered California voters.

There are very few likely candidates.

Polling shows there is no public appetite to restore the broad-based temporary increases in sales and income taxes that expired this year.

So the search is on for a tax proposal that voters would deem reasonable.

Given this environment, it was inevitable that attention would turn to an issue that has successfully been kept under the rug for more than 30 years: a property tax system that provides greater benefits to business properties than to homeowners and has led to a gradual shift in the property tax burden onto homeowners and away from office buildings, shopping centers and industrial complexes.

Thus, the idea of a so-called “split roll” property tax — a system that would treat business properties differently from residences — is beginning to elbow its way into the discussion.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa jump-started the conversation in August when he suggested business property taxes might be revisited as part of a “grand bargain” of reform designed to rescue California’s deteriorating public institutions.

The issue was sufficiently elevated that last week, at its annual meeting with county assessors, the Board of Equalization sponsored a roundtable discussion at the Capitol that featured, among others, California Tax Reform Association Executive Director Lenny Goldberg and Ventura County Assessor Dan Goodwin.

The association last year released a study, based on data from the Board of Equalization and county assessors, that found a substantial shift of the property tax burden has transpired in virtually every county since passage of Proposition 13 in 1978. In Los Angeles County in the mid-’70s, for instance, residential properties accounted for 53 percent of all property taxes; today the figure is 69 percent.

The traditional explanation has been that, since Proposition 13 allows for the value of property subject to taxation to be reset only upon resale, businesses turn over less frequently than homes. The association’s report says that explanation “does not quite explain the phenomenon.”

Goldberg says the shift is largely the result of “a loophole-ridden” system that has allowed business properties to change ownership through complex transactions designed to avoid triggering a reassessment.

The association report cites reams of anecdotal evidence documenting changes in business ownership that escaped tax reassessment, but Goodwin thinks Goldberg and other reformers may be overstating the situation.

The California GOP’s Latino Voter Problem

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Flap’s California Morning Collection: September 23, 2011

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Howard Jarvis, chief sponsor of the controversial Proposition 13, signals victory as he casts his own vote at the Fairfax-Melrose precinct –  June 1978

Photo Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

The California Legislature is not in session and Governor Jerry Brown is continuing to sign or veto bills passed more than a week ago. The deadline for action on the legislation is October 9.

On to today’s California headlines:

Prop. 13 still highly popular, poll finds

Occasional rumblings around the Capitol about changing Proposition 13 aren’t likely to amount to much anytime soon: The landmark tax-limiting measure is about as widely popular today as when it passed in 1978, according to a new Field Poll.

By a greater than 2-to-1 ratio, with 63 percent support, California voters would endorse the measure if it were up for a vote again today, according to the poll.

“It’s still the third rail of California politics,” poll director Mark DiCamillo said. “It’s really an untouchable. Tinkering with Proposition 13 would probably be done at a politician’s own peril.”

Approved by a 65 percent to 35 percent margin 33 years ago, Proposition 13 drastically reduced property taxes and made it more difficult for lawmakers to raise taxes in general.

The level of support slipped slightly in later years, from as low as 50 percent in 1991 to 57 percent in 2008, and politicians seeking to raise revenue in a withering economy occasionally considered trying to change it.

The poll suggests how difficult that might be: Though support among Republicans is greatest, majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independent voters all support the measure, as do majorities of both renters and homeowners, regardless of how long ago they bought their homes.

But a plurality of California voters for the first time since the proposition’s passage not only support the measure but oppose amending it to permit commercial property owners to be taxed at a higher rate. By a 50 percent to 41 percent margin, voters oppose such a change, according to the poll.

Study supports bill to end fingerprints for food stamp recipients

A new study provides support for a bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk that would stop the state’s policy of fingerprinting food stamp recipients.

California’s policy is meant to deter fraud, but it keeps people from seeking aid and creates high administrative costs, according to a study this month by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Participation in California’s food stamp program, CalFresh, is much lower than in other states but would rise about 7 percent if the state stopped fingerprint requirements. The state’s administrative costs for the program, which are some of the highest in the country, would drop about 13 percent, according to the study.

Legislation eliminating the fingerprinting process – AB 6 by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Arleta – is waiting for Brown’s signature. It passed the Legislature despite opposition from Republicans, who argued that the requirement deters fraud, making it harder to get food stamps from multiple jurisdictions or using multiple identities.

“I’m not sure there’s a reasonable argument to say we want to make it easier for more people to get on the welfare system,” said Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee. “We want to make it easier for people to get off the welfare system.”

In 2007, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill, saying it would provide “an opportunity for increased fraud.”

The California District Attorneys Association lobbied against the bill this year and asked Brown for a veto.

“Why are we getting rid of a deterrent that hopefully keeps people from seeking duplicate benefits?” said Cory Salzillo, director of legislation for the association. “Let’s make sure that when the government says certain people should be getting (benefits) that the ones that aren’t entitled to them aren’t accessing them illegally.”

LAUSD schools brace for new wave of layoffs

Angel Barrett, principal of Plummer Elementary in North Hills, stays busy at her campus, where she regularly supervises her nearly 1,000 students during meal breaks, answers parent phone calls, translates teacher conferences and even trims rose bushes.

Come next week though, her workload will be growing substantially.

Plummer is set to lose two office clerks and a plant manager Friday, as Los Angeles Unified School District lays off more than 1,100 non-teaching employees to help balance its budget. Plummer already lost a library aide last year, leading to a shutdown of the school’s library.

“I am not complaining … we will find a way to make it work,” Barrett said.

“But at some point we are going to have to look at our new education system and figure out how we continue to take care of our infrastructure when we are losing all of our supports.”

LAUSD officials closed a $408 million budget deficit for the 2011-12 school year using employee concessions and layoffs, including the loss of office clerks, library aides, campus aides and other school workers.

The final cuts to schools were less drastic than “worst-case scenario” predictions district officials presented in February.

After most employee unions agreed to take four furlough days and the state budget appeared to take a turn for the better, many of the more than 7,000 layoffs that had been expected were prevented.

Obama’s Westside campaign office vandalized

Los Angeles police were investigating a Thursday night  incident in which someone shot BB-gun pellets and threw an object into President Obama’s Westside campaign office, authorities said.

The incident was reported at 7:25 p.m. at the office in the 6700 block of South Centinela Avenue.

The person who called in the incident “reported hearing glass breaking and noticed that windows were broken,” LAPD spokeswoman Sara Faden said.

No one was in the office at the time, Faden said. Police did not say what object was thrown into the office.

The LAPD had no immediate description of the vandal and it was not clear if the act was captured on video.

The incident comes days before the president is due to visit Los Angeles to raise money for what is expected to be a bruising 2012 reelection campaign.

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