Gov. Jerry Brown talks Prop. 13


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On his first full day on the job, Gov. Jerry Brown walked right up to the third rail of California politics. As he headed into a meeting with local government officials, he talked about how the state response to Proposition 13’s limitations on property-tax rates have contributed to the state’s financial dysfunction.

Brown’s remarks come as he prepares to unveil a budget plan next week that will include proposals for unwinding the consolidation of government power in Sacramento that has taken place since voters approved the ballot measure in 1978, when Brown was first governor.


Brown’s goal is to work with cities and counties to return many state government functions back to local governments.

Proposition ’13 started the centralization of power,’ Brown said to reporters before entering the closed-door meeting with local officials at the Sacramento headquarters of the California State Assn. of Counties. ‘After that, the state started dictating what we did.’

Brown did not say whether his budget plans would seek to make changes to the property-tax protections. But he did say he would propose a ‘complex reordering’ of state and local government.

[Updated: 12:27 p.m.: After the meeting, Brown predicted his plan would meet with stiff opposition.

“It will be controversial and it will be a struggle,” he told reporters. The budget Brown will propose next week will ask voters to extend current temporary hikes in income, sales and vehicle taxes, according to people familiar with the governor’s budget plan. Brown will also propose using some of those revenues to fund his restructuring of government responsibilities.

“Proposition 13, because it took away the power of counties to tax, for the most part, it sent the decisions up to Sacramento. So we want to redistribute all that,” Brown said Tuesday.

Brown made clear Tuesday he was not blaming the state’s current problems on Proposition 13. But, he said, the decisions made by state lawmakers in the wake of Proposition 13’s passage have created an untenable situation.


“It was what the Legislature did after 13,” Brown said. Proposition 13 was not the problem, ‘it was what happened after 13 was passed.”

Asked if he would propose allowing counties to levy taxes, Brown said no. But raising money to pay for the overhaul is critical. Asked if he could pull it off without more funds, Brown said, “We can do a lot of things. It just depends on how many wagons and oxen we’re going to leave in the desert by the time we get through this. Probably a considerable number.”

John Tavaglione, the president of the counties association and a Riverside County supervisor, said funding any shift in responsibilities was key. “The money has to be there with the shifts, but we can ultimately save money on the local level by being more efficient, save the state more money,” Tavaglione said.]

-- Anthony York in Sacramento


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