Will Pillage People Triumph Over Working People?

California’s Proposition 15, the “Tax on Commercial and Industrial Properties for Educational and Local Government Funding Initiative,” has lost 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent. This measure would have taxed commercial and industrial property on their market value rather than purchase price. Residential properties would have still been taxed based on purchase price, with annual increases equal to the rate of inflation or 2 percent, whichever is lower. This limit is the result of Proposition 13, from 1978, when people were literally being taxed out of their homes.

Enter the “People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation,” under which property tax rates could not exceed 1 percent of the property’s market value and could not grow by more than 2 percent per year unless the property was sold. Proposition 13, unlike the California Coastal Act of 1976, which created the Coastal Commission, created no new state agencies and included no mandate for new state spending. The measure passed 64.79 to 35.21, a landslide by any definition. More than 40 years later, Proposition 13 still prevents the state from inflicting punitive property taxes on all Californians.

Proposition 13 also limits the power of government, so no surprise that the state’s ruling class hates it. Instead of crafting a measure that pegs property taxes at 10 percent of the property’s value, and allows increases of 15 percent per year, the ruling class attempted to split the tax rolls. This recalls the response of comedian Yakov Smirnoff to the 1981 movie Fort Apache, The Bronx, in which police toss a suspect off a roof. “This is nothing,” Smirnoff said. “In Russia KGB toss guy off roof to hit guy they really want.” In similar style, California’s pillage people target commercial property but really want to kill off Proposition 13, the People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation.

The official vote count for Proposition 15 may be over, but “ballot harvesting,” a legalized form of voter fraud, is still in progress. Whatever the result, the pillage people will never give up their crusade against working people. The target remains Proposition 13, the only measure preventing the state from inflicting punitive property taxes on all Californians.

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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