The tax fight that haunts California

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Hello.

Today, we dig a little deeper, one last time, Proposition 15, the complicated, seemingly banal, but ultimately very significant measure on Californian ballots.

It would change the way commercial properties are taxed, partially nullifying Proposition 13, the landmark 1978 measure that capped property tax increases and has been a defining force in California tax policy ever since.

[Refresh your memory on the highest-profile ballot initiatives this year.]

My colleague Conor Dougherty wrote learn more about the longstanding fight – its roots and why it matters. I asked him what might be to come.

Here is what he said:

You explain this in the story, but can you define what is at stake in Proposition 15? Why is this so bad for Californians?

Well, for starters, if passed it would be one of the biggest tax hikes in state history, so that alone is a big deal. But there is also a lot of symbolism here.

Proposition 13 has defined California land and politics since 1978 and has been considered untouchable ever since. Even a very small step to back it up would be a big problem, and it’s a big step. So if he succeeds, it will change our perception of what is considered politically possible.

Proposition 13 is a product of California only. But are there ways the fight over it has influenced national debate or federal policy? And how does Proposition 15 fit into the national economic landscape?

Proposition 13 is widely credited with triggering a nationwide tax revolt, and there are other places, like Florida, that have laws that limit how quickly property values ​​can be reassessed. So it’s not entirely unique.

What I think is important here is that Proposition 15 seems to suggest a new attitude towards taxes and a willingness to tax big business. If you believe the adage that California is a look into the future of the nation – and that certainly applied to Proposition 13 in 1978 – then, as I said, there is symbolism here. of the original tax revolt that could be reversed.

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Say that Proposition 15 passes. To what extent would developers see this as an opportunity to ask voters to change the look of residential property? Or is there a feeling that they would just take the win?

I don’t think anyone will approach residential homes for a while, if ever. Proposition 13 is still incredibly popular.

[Read the full story here.]

Now let’s say Proposition 15 fails. What would happen then? Would the “Yes” campaign regroup and come back in two or four years? Are there other ways for policy makers to try to generate this money? (Especially, the other Proposition 13 that was on the ballot earlier this year failed, so is a big measure of obligation off the table for a while?)

Over the past year, Californians seem to have become less responsive to tax increases. Will this affect the Prop. 15? Hard to say.

Getting back to that will be hugely expensive, so I suspect it will be some time before this is tried again, but that depends on how close the Proposition 15 race is.

What will you be watching more closely when the results arrive? What questions do you hope to answer?

I’ll watch the margins. If he barely succeeds or barely fails, I think that will mean that one side or the other will continue to pick on in the next election – remember that even if he does, the “No” side can. try to roll back a more favorable election. But if it’s a definite failure or a definite win, it gives either outcome a better chance to stick.

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[See The Times’s full voter guide for Californians, with information about how, when and where to cast your ballot. | Leer en español.]

Learn more about the election:

  • “America faces a serious challenge for its leadership in the ‘rules-based’ world.” Former governor Jerry Brown speaks on the Colusa County election. [The New York Review]

  • Here’s how to vote if you lost your home in a forest fire. [CapRadio]

  • The state is try to help those who need an interpreter to vote – but it’s difficult this year. [CalMatters]

If you missed it, a report found that more work needed to be done to attract first-time or hard-to-vote voters. [The New York Times]

  • Should I mail my ballot? What happens if a party does not accept the election results? And other questions on the election that anxious people can have. [The New York Times]

  • Once you are done stressing yourself out more, take this quiz to see if you can. “Trump refrigerator” from a “Biden refrigerator”. (It’s oddly fascinating and surprisingly difficult.) [The New York Times]


  • Evacuees who fled the Silverado fire have returned home, surrounded by scorched earth but no destruction: “I don’t know how this row of houses is still standing.” [The Orange County Register]

  • How does your state produce electricity? Find out how the California mix has evolved over the past two decades. [The New York Times]

  • Los Angeles public schools are unlikely to reopen for in-person instruction until at least January, said board members. [The Los Angeles Times]

  • As other Bay Area counties have made progress in reopening the state’s coronavirus, Solano County is the only one at risk of retreating. Officials accuse several “inappropriate large gatherings.” [The San Francisco Chronicle]

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Learn about California’s tiered reopening plan. [The New York Times]

  • The state treasurer pressured employees to show up to the office during the pandemic, asking them to show ‘courage and resolve’ emails and interviews show – although employees said they didn’t need to be there and in-person work quotas seemed arbitrary . [Politico]

  • Justin Turner, the Dodgers third baseman who was taken out of the team’s World Series winning game Tuesday night because he tested positive for coronavirus, refused to stay off the field during the celebrations, Major League Baseball said. [The New York Times]

Learn more about the celebration of Ms. Chiang’s 99th birthday. [The New York Times]

  • The Times wants to hear from essential workers in the food industry: How has your job changed during the pandemic? What sacrifices did you have to make? What does it mean to you to be a critical worker? Please let us know through the link. [The New York Times]

  • Noah Centineo launched a voting pop-up for influencers in Los Angeles. (If you understood this phrase, there’s a good chance you’re younger than a millennial.) He tours, during which he is sometimes barefoot and always masked. [The New York Times]


California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. PT on weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected]. Have you been forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read each edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from UC Berkeley, and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles – but she always wants to see more. Follow us here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from UC Berkeley.