Proposition 19, Property Tax Changes: Yes

Let’s be clear. Proposition 13 was one of the worst laws ever enacted in the state of California. Don’t get me wrong. It’s intentions were good. Who doesn’t want to prevent their parents from losing their long-time homes because they can no longer afford property taxes in an area where valuations are skyrocketing.

But the entirety of the law’s consequences, from eviscerating local budgets to wildly disparate taxation, has hobbled both state and local jurisdictions and increased income inequities. Proposition 19 is an attempt to fix a part of this.

And to be fair, the commercials and the arguments in favor of this irk me to no end. They harp on taking care of seniors and wildfire victims and people with disabilities, and how heartless do you have to be to vote against that, without, of course, caring about the details. Not caring about the details is how we got Proposition 13.

Proposition 13 is often referred to as the “third rail” of California politics, as in, anyone who dares touch it, dies. And the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association for years has made its hay on defending Proposition 13 at all costs, and damn the consequences.

Their opposition alone is enough to throw my support behind it. But that ignores the details, and those details are important. And when you look into those details, a picture emerges not of emotional heartstrings, but of delicate surgery performed by a brilliant surgeon.

One of the main issues with Proposition 13 is that it allows parents or grandparents to transfer property to children or grandchildren without the property tax assessment resetting to market value. Families can keep property for generation and not have it contribute fairly to tax rolls. And in a way, this makes sense; no one wants extended families to have to leave their ancestral homes.

Well, Proposition 19 just limits these type of transfers to only those where the children or grandchildren use the properties as their primary residence. Second homes, vacation homes, rental properties, they no longer get to keep drinking from the taxpayer’s trough.

Proposition also carves out an exception for homeowners 55 and older, firefighters, and wildfire victims to transfer their primary, and only their primary residence’s base property tax value to anywhere in the state when they have to move. I get caring for older folks, and especially for wildfire victims, but why firefighters? Two of these seem quite reasonable, but the third feels an awful lot lot pandering to powerful unions. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I should also note that Proposition 19 expands tax benefits for owners of family farms, a population that sorely needs help in this state.

Yet with these exceptions carved out, the loophole closing aspect of this proposition is expected to increase local tax rolls by millions of dollars per year. This local money goes largely to schools. This proposition would build back local budgets that were eviscerated by Proposition 13, and in turn help local school budgets, which means school supplies, better classroom size, and better teacher pay.

About 90–95% of this was crafted well, and that’s good enough to recommend a Yes vote.

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