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California - How Will the Split Roll Tax Measure Play Out During COVID-19?

by Scott Donald, Irvine, March 2020

 

Proponents of a split roll ballot measure got nearly twice the number of petition signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot. It’s one of the largest efforts ever mounted for a citizen-led ballot initiative in California.

 

The question is -- will the current pandemic help or hurt its chances to pass?

 

PRO

 

The Schools and Communities First initiative is the first significant change to California’s Prop. 13. It calls for the reassessment of commercial and industrial properties valued over $3 million to current market value every three years. It does not change assessments for residential and agricultural properties, or vacant land.

 

Supporters say the measure could raise as much as $12 billion annually in tax revenue, which would be divided between school districts and local governments.

 

CON

 

Opponents charge that the current uncertainties in the real estate market due to COVID-19 make it nearly impossible to estimate the revenue that can be expected from reassessing commercial property.

 

As an Op Ed piece in the Orange County Register points out, if the lockdown continues for weeks or months, many malls, hotels, restaurants, and office buildings could qualify for a decline-in-value reassessment. And when the market rebounds, unlimited increases in property taxes could impede economic growth and drive businesses out of the state.