SENATE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS ON PARCEL TAXES

As a reminder, here are a few of the bills that moved through the Legislature last week seeking to change protections afforded to property owners by Proposition 13 — and passed on party line votes – by the Senate Local Government Committee.

All of the bills seek to make it easier to raise property taxes by amending the State Constitution to lower the vote requirement for tax increases from two-thirds to 55%.  By removing the protections of the voter approved two-thirds vote, these bills would facilitate increased taxes on commercial, industrial, retail, and residential property owners.

Here are summaries of each bill with links to resource pages from our partners at the CalChamber.  Each of these bills have been named “Job Killers:”

SCA 3 (Leno; D-San Francisco) gives school districts and community colleges new authority to enact a parcel tax for education programs through the lowered vote requirement.

SCA 4 (Liu; D-La Cañada Flintridge) and SCA 8 (Corbett; D-San Leandro) give local governments the new authority to enact special taxes, including parcel taxes, for transportation projects.

SCA 7 (Wolk; D-Davis) gives local governments the new authority to enact special taxes, including parcel taxes, to finance library construction.

SCA 9 (Corbett; D-San Leandro) gives local governments the new authority to enact special taxes, including parcel taxes, to finance community and economic development projects.

SCA 11 (Hancock; D-Oakland) simply gives local governments new authority to enact special taxes, including parcel taxes, through lowering the vote threshold.

With such broad discretion in the type or scope of the tax to impose on real property, we are concerned that the constitutional amendments could lead to targeted taxes at the local level against unpopular taxpayers, industries, products or property.  The current two-thirds vote requirement for taxes provides a mechanism by which voters can still approve tax increases while protecting the interests of a small minority of taxpayers.

The business community consistently maintains that if a tax is necessary, it should be only temporary and broad based so that the impact is minimized as the tax is uniformly shared by all instead of an individual business, industry, or taxpayer.

All of these bills have a significant way to go in the process.  However, because they are Constitutional amendments, they are not subject to normal vote deadlines in the legislature.

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