Letter: Vote ‘Yes’ on Prop. 15

Dear Editor,

California is the fifth largest economy in the world, yet we rank 39th of the 50 states in per-pupil spending. The Covid-19 pandemic threatens to further gut school budgets, right when schools need additional resources and support in order to reopen safely.

Proposition 15 would reclaim $12 billion annually that would go directly to neighborhood schools and vital community services. It would close unfair loopholes being exploited by some of California’s wealthiest corporations, while maintaining all existing protections on homes and other residential property.

Many businesses would see their taxes go down under some great new tax breaks in Prop. 15, while a relative small group of very large and very rich corporations would finally start paying their fair share. Investing in students and public education is the best long-term investment we can make. Voters should vote YES on Proposition 15.


Scott Hoffman



  1. Cite the source for 39th. I just found Ca. at 24th as of 2016. https://www.governing.com/gov-data/education-data/state-education-spending-per-pupil-data.html

    To “reclaim” is to assert a claim previously existed.

    What “great new tax breaks” exist in Prop 15? And, what is the difference between a “great new tax break” and a “tax loophole?” Perhaps one is what is said about a tax break you like, vs. one you don’t?

    At what point can a taxpayer obtain what is already being paid for instead of solving every problem with greater and greater funding?

  2. For many supporters, the aim of Proposition 15 is to repair the fiscal and social damage inflicted by Proposition 13 on the quantity and quality of public services in California. That damage stems from the radical reduction in revenues to local authorities and, ultimately the state, caused by lowering and restraining property taxes across the board. Proposition 13 supporters always overlook the fact that Howard Jarvis was the President of the Los Angeles County Apartment Owners Association, a major state-wide lobbying organization then and now. His partner Paul Gann, who made his fortune in real estate and car sales, co-wrote Proposition 13 and the campaign was headquartered in the Apartment Owners Association’s office (see the recent documentary on Jarvis and his campaign here https://www.kcet.org/ shows/ the-first-angry-man/episodes/the-first-angry-man).

    While Proposition 13 had an important impact on individual residential property owners (e.g. homeowners), its impact on apartment owners, landlords and commercial and industrial property owners was more significant. While non-real estate businesses initially opposed Proposition 13 (https://www.wpusa.org/files/reports/old/TFP.pdf), they would eventually reap significant rewards.

    Under Proposition 13, businesses with large real estate holdings (e.g. Chevron), are less frequently subject to reassessments of base values for property tax purposes than are residential property owners because commercial and industrial property turns over at much slower rates than residential property. Furthermore, businesses use various ownership vehicles like real estate investment trusts, limited partnerships, limited liability companies, family trusts, publicly-traded corporations and private equity holdings that conceal or distribute ownership in ways that allow them to avoid reassessments of their underlying property values (https://www.laprogressive.com/prop-13/).

    Thus, Proposition 13 turns out to have been a boon for large real estate holders, including very large corporations whose main business is not real estate. How much do owners of commercial and industrial property save as a result of Proposition 13? It is estimated that they would pay about $11.4 billion more in property taxes per year if their properties were to be reassessed to their market value in 2020 (https://dornsife.usc.edu/assets/sites/242/docs/Getting_Real_About_Reform_ 2017_Update.pdf). (This excludes reassessing apartments or other multi-unit residential property.)

    But Proposition 13 tax savings to corporate and business entities are exceeded by the tax breaks and tax giveaways from state government over the past several decades that are estimated at more than 40% of the General Fund Budget and many multiples of tax benefits available to the poorest Californians (https://calbudgetcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CA_Budget_Center_tax-expenditures-2020.pdf). The net effect is the steady decline in the share of corporate income paid by increasingly large and wealthy corporations as California income tax (https://calbudgetcenter.org/resources/corporations-pay-far-less-of-their-income-in-state-taxes/).

    Proposition 15 would re-balance the relative tax burdens of corporations and businesses, on the one hand, and households, on the other, by more heavily taxing the former, particularly business entities that are “legacy” developers and whose lands have soared in value. These include, among others, Disneyland and the Irvine Company in Orange County; studio and theme parks like Paramount and Universal Studios in Los Angeles County; Intel, IBM and big land developers like the Sobrato Organization in Santa Clara County; Chevron refineries in Richmond and El Segundo; and the BNSF Railway (https://edsource.org/2020/quick-guide-proposition-15-the-proposed-split-roll-tax-on-commercial-property/640728). It couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch.

  3. Every time you tax a “business”, all our expenses go up as well. There is already too much waste. We have voted for “new roads” and “police” how many times? We are paying for teachers who do not show up for work. Why more taxes?

  4. I agree with econoclast. Businesses will charge what the market will bear and they are not going to “pass-on” property tax savings to customers. Prop 13 was always a Trojan Horse for commercial businesses. It’s also led to gross distortions in the residential markets. I always see complaints that government doesn’t spend wisely–which is undoubtedly true in certain instances–but that’s not a justification for maintaining an illogical taxing system.

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