"I'm not sure [a split roll] should be part of our near-term agenda," Steinberg says.
"We need to focus on the essential problem. And I think the essential problem is that the [state] government that raises the money is not responsible for providing the [local] service, and the government that provides the service has little authority to raise revenue."
Not only courage but also caution is required when venturing near anything that smacks of Prop. 13.
A "split roll" move undoubtedly would draw strong opposition from business interests.
However, business conceivably could support making it easier to pass local taxes if the funds were used for building infrastructure, such as transit and roads.
"We believe that infrastructure should be one of the biggest legislative issues for 2013," says Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable. "The funding mechanism is something we want to be involved in discussing."
Business leaders, in fact, were warming up to supporting a hike in the car tax to finance highway construction. But a Democratic senator, Ted Lieu of Torrance, jumped the gun with a proposal to triple the tax and was immediately asked by Steinberg to drop the unpopular idea. He did.
There'll be loads of less volatile proposals in the Legislature.
Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has proposed that parcel taxes to fund school operations be allowed to pass with 55% of the vote.
Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills), who is running for L.A. City Council, has been pushing legislation to lower the vote for all infrastructure bonds to 55%.
"We don't want to go hog wild," he says. "There's no appetite for a mass tax raid."
But he adds, "when 66% of the people vote for something and it loses, that embitters a lot of folks."
It also points out the hypocrisy of Prop. 13. It decreed that all these tax measures receive a two-thirds vote to pass. But Prop. 13 didn't need to hit that mark — and fell short (64.8%).