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Proposition 13 needs revision

Democratic Voices

Posted: July 29, 2008 1:16 a.m.
Updated: September 29, 2008 5:01 a.m.
 
When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger replaced Gray Davis after the recall election five years ago, he promised that he would keep his solemn oath to the voters that he would end deficit spending.

During his campaign, Schwarzenegger promoted his overly simplified approach to dealing with a state’s budget deficit: slash unnecessary programs, borrow what is necessary, and don’t increase taxes. 

Fast forward to 2008.

California is facing a budget deficit of more than $15 billion.

How does Schwarzenegger plan to bring back California without raising taxes while at the same honoring his campaign pledge to not increase deficit spending AND all the while staying within the guidelines of Proposition 13?

We need to re-evaluate Proposition 13 — especially where California’s assessment (and taxation) of large commercial property is concerned.

Proposition 13, the “People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation,” has had a devastating impact on our local economy — especially our schools — since it was passed in 1978, when local governments couldn’t cut property taxes fast enough.

Our city council, our school board members and county supervisors are elected by us in an effort to meet the needs of our community. However, thanks to Proposition 13, coupled with the California state budget deficit, our local government’s autonomy is being weakened when it comes to basic budget responsibility and accountability.

Ideas have been on the table for some time regarding ways to adjust Proposition 13 so that elderly homeowners whom it was supposedly designed to protect still are protected, and the savings windfalls that went to California corporations are put back into local economies.

Some tax reformers have suggested that owner-occupied residential property be left as is but business property taxation should be reviewed so that it could be more in line with the reality of the local economies.
I agree.
Another thought to keep in mind when considering the California budget deficit is that public approval is earned by appropriations, not by taxation; therefore legislators refuse to vote taxes on the interests they represent, but are always willing to spend money on their behalf.

As a result, in spite of California’s budget deficit, Schwarzenegger may be going back on his solemn campaign oath of “no more deficit spending” through his use of borrowing as a tool to balance the budget.

Schwarzenegger has quietly been touting a $10 billion bond measure, Proposition 1 on the November 2008 ballot, for a high-speed rail line that could revolutionize transportation in California. This is exciting, however, it could wind up costing Californians about $647 million annually. How come no one is discussing this? Stay tuned. For more information, visit http://www.lao.ca.gov/.

The Governor’s fiscal policy approach has become more fine-tuned since he defeated Davis. His approach now includes more frequent use of “creative” borrowing techniques as a tool to balance budgets.

His primary addition to this year’s budget talks has been a proposal to sell off the future revenues (three years’ worth) of the state lottery to Wall Street in order to generate capital today.

Under the staggering burden of billions of dollars in debt, and the necessity of spending added billions while at the same time slashing necessary services, the search for new sources of state revenue goes on.

In addition to searching for more revenue, Schwarzenegger is also trying to trim some of the so-called fat from the state’s budget — fat that includes social services, transit and education. He is also trying to cut the salaries of state employees down to federal minimum wage.

I agree with Councilmember Marsha McLean’s efforts to alert our community to the fact that we need to protect Santa Clarita’s and the Santa Clarita Valley’s local government funding from the state budget grab as the state attempts to balance its budget (see http://www.the-signal.com/news/article/3058/).

California’s economy didn’t fizzle overnight. There were many contributing factors to this condition. State-wide causes include the impacts of the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000 and the loss of more than $30 billion as a result of the energy crisis of 2000-2001 brought on by energy companies — including Enron.

To make matters worse, Proposition 13 has been tying the hands of our local elected officials who are trying to protect the quality of life of our state residents.

We have to stop looking at ourselves as just taxpayers. We need to remind ourselves that we are also citizens of California.

Taxpayers are merely consumers of services, whereas citizens are deeply linked with their community and its welfare. Consumers want something for nothing, whereas citizens work together for the common good and consider fair taxes coupled with strict accountability to the people as a necessary part of making California work.

Citizens think about their state as a whole, not just themselves, like some taxpayers/consumers do. Citizens, get involved.

Go ahead, get involved. Pay attention. Learn more about Proposition 13, enacted in 1978, and Proposition 1 which appears on the November 2008 ballot. Learn how you can help protect local government funding from the state budget grab.

Cal Planakis is an independent civic journalist who lives in Santa Clarita. She is a member of the Democratic Alliance for Action of Santa Clarita. Her column reflects her own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.

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