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California’s Legislative Analyst has released Common Claims About Proposition 13, the People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation 65 percent of California voters approved in 1978. The LAO examines whether Proposition 13 stabilizes property taxes, discourages new business creation, increases home ownership, and so forth. Prop 13 opponents, primarily government ruling-class types, claim it reduces revenue. Common Claims finds that, across all California local governments, per–person tax revenue has increased 36 percent since Proposition 13. Overall, the LAO report explains, “California local revenue increased” under Proposition 13. But this will not put to rest attacks on the measure.
Big-government apologists claim Prop 13 is inherently unfair because owners of similar properties pay different amounts of property taxes. With property tax pegged to the purchase price of a home, that differential is inevitable. The LAO says higher–income Californians “own more homes and own homes of higher value and, therefore, receive the majority of the total dollars of tax relief provided to homeowners by Proposition 13.” Actually, these homeowners do not “receive” anything. They pay less of their own money to the government because of a measure voters approved. Contrary to statist superstition, to allow anyone to keep more of what they earn is not to give them something.
While giving credence to the most infantile attack on Proposition 13, the Legislative Analyst does not weigh in on the need for property tax limitation in the first place. As we noted, before voters approved Proposition 13, people were being taxed out of their homes. Even so, Jerry Brown, in his first go-round as governor, called the measure a fraud and a rip-off. He was never, as he claimed, a “born-again tax cutter,” and he now spearheads a tax counterrevolution.
Common Claims About Proposition 13, meanwhile, might have tabulated the new state spending and new state hires mandated by the 1978 ballot measure. A ballpark figure for both would be zero. That’s why the ruling class still wages war on the People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation.