Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor
Letters to the editor are a great way to focus attention on the need for Prop. 13 reform. Getting LTEs published shows the public that this reform will generate $9 billion each year for schools and public services without raising taxes on homeowners or renters. Below is the list of LTEs that have been published in support of making large corporations pay their fair share.
For tips on how to write and submit your own letter, check out our LTE Campaign Action Center!
Instead of using sales taxes to fund libraries, we need to fix Prop. 13
Re “Library memories merit renewal of tax for future”: In his article, columnist Jeff Jardine argues that a tax renewal for libraries is necessary to keep them up to par. While libraries are crucial to our communities, we should not have to nickel and dime working families to keep public services in good condition, especially when the biggest corporations are getting away with underpaying billions of dollars in taxes yearly. This tax renewal is only a temporary fix that focuses on one public service. What we need is a permanent solution that addresses many other struggling public services, including our schools.
A better solution is to reform the commercial side of Proposition 13. Though Prop. 13 was sold to protect homeowners, what most people don’t know is that corporations benefit the most. For example, Chevron profits $500 million a year from Prop. 13. Reassessing commercial property at market value will generate $9 billion a year of reliable revenue for California to fund education and public services. This amount of money can dramatically improve California’s public services and ensure that ordinary citizens no longer have to tax themselves to keep places like their libraries in good condition.
Reform of Prop. 13 needed to Fund Schools
Regarding the March 29 online article, “Prop 13 reform key to affordable housing,” it is promising to hear Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable, acknowledge the loopholes in Prop. 13 and the damage it has done to our state. However, it is too late for small measures. For almost 40 years, California has watched our state fall from one of the top 10 states in public education funding to the bottom ten.
Now our state is in debt and dependent on federal funds for education. This makes us vulnerable to President Trump threatening to withhold federal funding from our kids and communities. A full reform of the commercial end of Prop 13, while maintaining protections for homeowners, is what we need to fund our schools and vital public services. Restoring $9 billion in local revenue will eliminate the leverage Trump has against us.
Remedy Property Tax Policy
Regarding “In search of money if federal taxes drop” (March 15): The simplest and most fair way to fund public services in our great state would be to reform property taxes for commercial properties.
Californians pay the highest income and sales taxes in the country and were still forced to pass new revenue measures year after year to make up for budget shortfalls. It is time for commercial properties to shoulder their fair share. Other states regularly reassess commercial properties to generate stable tax revenues for education and social services. Nearly 40 years after Proposition 13 gutted the social safety net and our schools, it is time to remedy that failing public policy.
Prop 13 Issues
Regarding “The real winners, losers with Prop. 13” (Dec. 7): I was pleased to see the inequities in Proposition 13 addressed, but the article failed to mention the biggest inequity of all.
In 1978, Prop. 13 was sold to California voters as a protection for homeowners, but the biggest beneficiaries have been large corporations. Few people knew then — or know now — that commercial, nonresidential properties are included in Prop. 13.
Since large business properties turn over less frequently than the typical home, they are not reassessed as often. And when they are sold, the new owners exploit a loophole in Prop. 13 so that it is not defined as a sale. The average homeowner now pays property taxes at rates many times higher than the likes of Disney and Chevron.
In the 1970s, residential and non-residential properties paid about equal shares of property tax revenue. Now, residential properties pay 72 percent (not counting the hefty parcel taxes needed to offset Prop. 13’s revenue-draining effects) and nonresidential owners pay 28 percent. Assessing corporations on a regular basis would bring in an estimated $9 billion in revenue and shore up our crumbling educational system, social services and infrastructure.
Amend Prop. 13
Regarding “The real winners, losers with Prop. 13” (Dec. 7): Kathleen Pender does a good job of exposing the disparity in much higher property taxes paid by those who recently bought when compared to long-term owners of identical homes.
What she neglected to point out however, is that commercial property owners are the biggest winners of all. With unlimited lifespans, corporations can “continuously” own a property and never get their tax reassessed, regardless of how many different tenants and serial “parent companies” own them.
Meanwhile, new struggling families pay the highest market rates and Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association asserts that this is how it should be! Wrong. Amend Proposition 13 to reassess commercial property at market rates.
Prop. 13 Reform
To improve schools, reform Proposition 13! “Promising school curriculum reforms” (Open Forum, March 30) speaks to improvement in the schools. That’s nice, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. California’s school system used to be the best in the country. The plunge to the bottom is shocking. It is surprising that the article does not mention the chronic underfunding. Prop. 13 is directly responsible for this. It’s past time for commercial property owners to pay their fair share at current market rates. The constitutional amendment introduced as SCA5 will reverse this. It will add $9 billion a year to local agencies, including the school districts.
Proposition 13 needs reforms
I am referring to the letter from Mike Ali-Kinney, "Fed up with endless taxes."
Ali-Kinney is right -- the working poor and the working class should not "tax themselves with more new taxes and raising old ones." But it might surprise him and many others in Contra Costa County to know that commercial interests today pay one-third of the county's property taxes and residents pay two-thirds.
Before Proposition 13 was passed in 1978, commercial interests paid two-thirds of Contra Costa County's property taxes and residents paid one-third. Loopholes in Prop. 13 favoring certain commercial interests need to be closed to provide more fairness in who pays property taxes and to gain sorely needed revenue to run our state and local governments more efficiently for the benefit of all citizens.
Hopefully, voters will eventually realize that imposing new taxes and raising old ones are not the only ways to help get California out of the desperate financial hole it is in. We need to make taxation more fair, especially by reforming Prop. 13.
Stabilizing the state budget
As you note in “Record budget ‘in good shape,’” Jan. 8, Gov. Jerry Brown emphasized the vulnerability of the state budget to economic swings. Fortunately, there is an easy solution to minimize the budget roller coaster: Amend Prop. 13 so that corporations pay their fair share of property taxes. When Prop. 13 was enacted in 1978, corporations provided half the state’s property taxes revenue, and individual homeowners paid the other half. Today, corporations pay only one quarter, and that percentage dwindles each year.
Our schools, colleges, highways and other infrastructure deserve predictable funding. Providing a stable base of property tax revenue allows this, and it is only fair that corporations pay their way. The passage of State Constitutional Amendment 5, which has been introduced in the Legislature with the intent of appearing on the November 2016 ballot will do just that. It will generate $9 billion each year without raising taxes on homeowners or renters. It deserves the support of every California organization and voter.
Talk is cheap, be sure to vote
Pieces in the Times opinion page -- including that of former UC Berkeley Regent Ward Connerly -- have claimed that low-income, minority students and their parents just need to work harder to increase their rates of admission to the University of California system.
That's a tall order, given declining K-12 resources since 1978 due to Proposition 13, which has resulted in a shamefully unequal quality of secondary education across the state, often reflecting wealth of a district's parents.
Nevertheless, despite wealthier parents keeping their schools afloat by voting for parcel taxes and by directly contributing to schools, the overall achievement of California public school students has gone from 4th in the nation in 1960, by some measures, to 44th in the 2012 PISA international test in math.
The passage of State Constitutional Amendment 5, introduced by California Assembly members Holly Mitchell and Loni Hancock to close a Prop. 13 loophole favoring commercial interests, will help to restore the health of our K-12 system and is an excellent reason for citizens to register to vote and to make sure they do vote in 2016!
Regarding “Brown’s dodge on Prop. 13” (Editorial, Oct. 12): Thank you for your support of commercial property tax reform, and for exposing Gov. Jerry Brown’s lack of courage. Polls show the majority of Californians now support a split roll plan to make Prop. 13 more fair to homeowners. So, when the governor says he doesn’t want to make too many enemies by supporting reform, he is either out of touch with this new political reality or, more likely, he is unwilling to admit exactly which enemies he is afraid of.
On Governor Brown's Prop. 13 statement
Gov. Jerry Brown’s statement about how he won’t support Prop. 13 reform is a loss for California’s already underfunded schools and public services. It isn’t as complex as Brown makes it out to be. The split-roll initiative would force corporations to pay market value property taxes and bring back much-needed funds to schools. Every other place in the country already reassesses commercial property regularly, and by implementing split roll, we would be on par with the rest of the country. And nothing will change for homeowners, renters, landlords and agricultural landowners. California has the eighth largest economy in the world, and you would think that the state could fund schools with that kind of money. But the reality is that schools are heavily underfunded. This problem has a simple solution: Reform Prop. 13 and bring back $9 billion dollars to increase the education budget in California. More than 700 elected officials from more than 100 school boards, city councils and county boards of supervisors have already publicly called for reform and a majority of Californians agree. Now all we have to do is get our political leaders to agree to lend their voices and support to this reform.
Prop. 13 reform needed to prop up UC system
UC Merced's slowed expansion and failure to keep up with the needs of Central Valley residents (August 22, "UC Merced expansion delayed by budget cuts, online classes") epitomizes severe budget cuts to the UC system. As a UC student, I can personally attest to what the lack of funding has done to our schools. Tuition has tripled in the last 10 years; essential services are being cut. I took a midterm sitting on the floor because there literally weren't enough seats. The reason higher education is suffering in California is because the state simply doesn't have enough money to invest in it.
Now more than ever, we need Prop. 13 reform. Corporations are reaping the benefits of not paying their fair share in taxes. Commercial property tax reform could restore $9 billion a year, money that is critical to repair California's education system. Get involved and visit www.evolve-ca.org to learn more.
Thomas D. Elias's July 3 column alerts us to the challenges faced by the "split roll" measure before the California Legislature designed to make Proposition 13 more fair. The proposal would introduce annual reassessment of commercial properties (which infrequently change hands) while protecting homeowners from reassessment until they sell. This would reduce an increasing and unfair disparity between the contributions of corporations and homeowners to local coffers.
Particularly distressing is Mr. Elias' warning that vested interests opposing these reforms will play on fears that reforming Proposition 13 will deprive home-owners of protection from rate increases and would force older folks on fixed incomes to sell their homes. The current movement to reform Proposition 13 will do nothing of the sort, and it is critical that the focus be kept on the need for corporations to pay their fair share rather than scaring elders about losing their homes.
State must consider using split roll taxes
Families of high school students should be fuming. After paying state taxes for years and expecting a university admission for their good student, parents are being told that more enrollment is being offered to out-of-state students who pay higher tuition. In-state enrollment declined. Why?
Education has suffered a decline in state support since the advent of Prop. 13. The proposition stopped the escalation of property taxes that were rising dramatically due to escalating housing values. No one disputes that need for tax relief.
What people today are disputing is the disparity between commercial tax assessments and residential property.
Residential property is reassessed each time it is sold. Commercial interests have learned that if no one owns more than 50 percent of the shares it is not a new ownership, so they make sure their title reflects that when the property is sold. Since Prop. 13, commercial property taxes as a percent have steadily declined while residential rates have steadily increased.
Residential taxes are now considerably higher than commercial taxes.
Because of this, billions have never been invested in schools, universities, roads, electric grids, flood control and the list is long. It's time to look at split roll.
Split roll is needed to make Proposition 13 truly fair
Assemblyman Chris Holden wrote intriguingly about an amendment to preserve Proposition 13’s flaming 1978 advertisement: to help our senior citizens. It is no surprise that the Howard Jarvis Association has come up with a new way to protect Prop. 13. What Prop. 13 really did was to shift the property tax burden from commercial properties, which are rarely sold, to residential properties, which are often sold every five or six years.
Under Prop. 13, since taxes can rise dramatically only upon a sale of property, taxes on businesses are now just a fraction of what they used to be in comparison with residential. In 1978, California businesses paid 50 percent of all property taxes; today just 28 percent. What is needed is a split roll (a different formula for commercial and residential property taxes) to bring back equity between homeowners (you and me) and commercial and industrial interests. This is what the Legislature should take up.
Full List of Published LTEs: