Howard Jarvis, tax fighter
Today, as I write this, (June 6) it is exactly 30 years since the voters approved the historic California tax-cutting measure Proposition 13.
What do you give for the 30th anniversary? Hmm, I know a lot of school teachers worried about layoffs who would like to give the voters a sack of coal.
I’ve been in California exactly as long as Proposition 13 has been around. Yup, I moved here from New York in August 1978 to attend Univeristy of California, Irvine and like many, I fell in love with SoCal and stayed. Today, it still feels like we’re living under the cloud of Prop. 13. Living here and reporting on communities in Orange, San Bernardino and now, Los Angeles County for almost those 30 years, I’ve seen and heard all sides of the property tax cutting measure.
My first experience was when I was still in New York. I got a phone call from my parents, who had heard from my brother, who had just joined the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department. He was worried, very worried, that if this ballot measure was to pass, he would be out of a job.
Well, that didn’t happen. In fact, in April, he retired from the department after 31 years of meritorious service.
Scare tactics were the first reaction to the measure. But California found a way (it was called reserves) to pay cities and schools for the shrinking property tax revenues. Then, as we saw in Tuesday’s Covina Utility Tax vote (Measure C, approved by 65 percent of the voters), the use of scare tactics to convince voters to vote for a tax is still in vogue.
Which brings me to my next point. Utility Users Taxes came about after Prop. 13, after the state stopped the bailouts and started taking some of the money back. Then property tax revenue bond began to appear on our property tax bills. Almost every school district has one, some have two on the rolls. When you add community college districts and some water districts, it, well, almost adds up to a pre-Prop. 13 tax bill.
The point is: other taxes have taken the place of lowered property taxes. It is the old step on the snake illustration; step on the tail and you haven’t killed the snake, you just fatten the head.