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Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Bartlett: Proposition 13: 35 Years Later

Tax AnalystsBruce Bartlett, Proposition 13: 35 Years Later, 139 Tax Notes 801 (May 13, 2013):

In this article, Bartlett reviews the history of California’s Proposition 13, which was enacted 35 years ago next month. While extremely important politically, its economic significance has faded over time.

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Update:  New York Times:  Proposition 13 at Age 35, by Bruce Bartlett

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William Fulton and Paul Shigley wrote:

"In the old days, property taxes were high, but at least you could have a debate at your local city hall about how much they would be increased and what the money would be used for. No more. Proposition 13 says that the allocation of the property taxes among local government entities is a decision to be made by the governor and the legislature."

Those authors are wrong to blame Prop 13 for the loss of local control over property taxes. Bartlett was wrong to quote a contention he knows to be incorrect.

Bartlett noted earlier in his article that a court decision had ALREADY taken away local control of property tax revenue:

"...Serrano v. Priest, which held that the state’s reliance on the local property tax to finance schools was unconstitutional because funding varied enormously from one locality to another. That led to a new funding system that equalized per-pupil expenditures throughout California.
That development was critical to Proposition 13 because previously, homeowners had been more willing to pay high property taxes because it led directly to higher funding for the local schools. But once school outlays were equalized, homeowners no longer saw any direct benefit to higher property taxes."

Proposition 13 was the effect, not the cause, of the loss of local control. And Bartlett knows it.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Jun 2, 2013 4:37:23 PM