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California - Tax Reform Remains Elusive

by Scott Donald, Irvine, June 2013


There have been many attempts to change California's property tax limitation legislation, Proposition 13, since it was passed 35 years ago. The most recent reform proposal is now in limbo.


Meanwhile, lawmakers are crafting several constitutional amendments that would make it easier for voters to pass property tax increases.


Prop 13 Split-Roll Bill


Assembly Bill 188 was introduced in January by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. It creates a split-roll tax that collects more revenue from business property owners without raising taxes on homeowners. The Assembly Committee on Tax and Revenue put Ammiano's legislation on hold at a hearing in mid-May.


A spokesman for Ammiano said he thinks the Assembly committee postponed the bill to allow for talks between lawmakers and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. If the talks are successful, the Tax and Revenue Committee could hold an official vote on AB 188 later this year.


Senate Constitutional Amendments


The Senate Governance and Finance Committee passed several constitutional amendments that lower voters' approval margin from the Prop 13 mandated two-thirds -- to just 55%.


  • SCA 3 - 55% approval for raising school district per-parcel property taxes

  • SCA 4 - 55% approval for higher local transportation special taxes

  • SCA 7 - 55% approval for bonds to fund public libraries

  • SCA 9 - 55% approval to increase taxes for community & economic development projects

  • SCA 11 - 55% approval for voters representing any local government entity to approve a special tax for any purpose.


Interestingly enough, before these proposed amendments can go before voters, they must win two-thirds approval in both the Senate and the Assembly.