Proponents of making a dramatic change to California’s landmark Proposition 13 property tax restrictions took their first step to getting a measure on the November 2018 statewide ballot Friday.
The change would allow the state to receive more tax dollars from commercial and industrial properties by assessing them at their current market value, an effort known as “split roll” because existing tax protections on homes would remain in place.
Advocates of the measure, including the League of Women Voters of California and community organizing nonprofits California Calls and PICO Network said the change could raise billions of dollars that could be spent on public schools and community colleges.
“I think the cumulative effects of the unfair tax system have gotten to the point where it’s created crippling economic impacts on the state,” said Melissa Breach, executive director of the League of Women Voters of California.
Backers filed their proposed initiative Friday. The attorney general’s office will prepare an official title and summary for the measure and it will receive a financial analysis. From there, advocates will decide if they will collect signatures to put the measure on the ballot.
Proposition 13 passed in 1978 amid concerns that rising property taxes could force people out of their homes. The ballot measure limited property taxes to 1% of a property’s value at the time of purchase and ensures that the assessed value on which taxes are based can only increase by a maximum of 2% a year — no matter how much a property’s market value goes up.
Split-roll measures have been long debated in state politics, but business groups and anti-tax groups have expressed substantial opposition to the idea, arguing that it would cause major harm to the state’s business climate.
Breach said she expected “an avalanche of big money” against the measure should it go forward, but said that her organization wouldn’t get involved without believing it could raise sufficient funding.S
For the record
1 p.m., Dec. 18: An earlier version of this post said the “split roll” ballot measure would allow California to charge higher tax rates on commercial and industrial properties. It would allow the state to assess those properties at current market value, not charge higher rates.