chapter  30
11 Pages

Proposition 13: Tax Reform’s Lexington Bridge?

WithDANIEL ORR

If we examine what Proposition Thirteen does, we quickly see that it will not be easy to extend it outside of California. California has a peculiar institu tion, the constitutional initiative, whereby voters can directly amend the state constitution through a simple m ajority vote, once an am endm ent has been placed on the election ballot by a petition with a required num ber of signatures. Proposition Thirteen is such an am end­ ment. It stipulates four im portant things about real estate tax assessments and real estate rates. Real estate in California is assessed by elected assessors who, prior to Thirteen, regularly updated these recorded values on the basis of prices paid for comparable properties. Thirteen provides, first, that a real estate parcel shall be currently reassessed at its fiscal 1975 level unless it has changed ownership since January 1, 1976, in which case the most recent price paid is the basis of assess­ ment. Second, the assessed value of a parcel can rise no more than two percent per year, unless the parcel changes owner­ ship. Third, the maximum real estate tax that can be collected is one percent of the assessed value; and fourth , a two-thirds m ajority of both houses o f the legislature is necessary in order to change these rules of taxation.