Public Safety Funding
Prop. 13’s commercial property loophole is putting public safety at risk
A little known provision in Prop. 13 costs the public over $10 billion a year in lost revenue.
When voters passed Prop. 13 in 1978 to limit property taxes on homeowners, they did not realize that it also included commercial properties. This $11 billion loophole has decimated California’s most important source of revenue for local governments that have been forced to make deep staffing cuts across the board including fire departments.
“It’s a zero sum game,” says a senior legislative representative of the California Special Districts Association: “If any agency is going to get a benefit and receive more money, that means that other agencies are going to lose money, because we can’t just increase the money that is coming in for property taxes.”
California is not prepared for the next big crisis
After decades of budget cuts, our public safety net has been stretched to the breaking point. This is especially troubling considering the increased threat of natural disasters caused by global climate change.
Local fire fighters are the first line of defense when responding to wildfires, but from 1994-2014, firefighter staffing based on population has been cut by 24%. According to the California Professional Firefighters association, local fire agencies have been unable to fill a growing number of mutual aid requests for wildfire response because the resources and equipment were not available. The California Professional Firefighters association reports that in 2016, the number of unfilled requests was three times what it was in 2015. In 2017, according to recent reporting by SF Gate, when the Tubbs fire began to tragically spread through Napa County, an urgent request was made for 305 fire engines through the mutual aid program. Only 130 fire engines were deployed in response.
California needs real solutions
In an attempt to restore funding, more and more cities are forced to rely on temporary, regressive, and unstable forms of revenue, such as bonds, parcel, and sales taxes. These band-aid revenue sources are not only unreliable, they simply don’t provide the necessary resources to adequately address public safety threats. Meanwhile, in order to cut nearly $100m a year in costs, between 35% and 40% of the firefighters employed by CalFire are prisoners working for $2 a day.
Trump's cuts to firefighting funding
On top of this, Trump is proposing deep cuts to federal firefighting and prevention services. Trump has proposed cutting $300m from the US Forest Service's wildfire fighting initiatives and $50m from its wildfire prevention efforts, in addition to a 23% reduction of federal funding for volunteer fire departments. While climate change has extended the wildfire season and created new threats, Trump is proposing deep cuts to the EPA. We must ensure our firefighters are provided with sustainable local revenue.
This has to change
It is more important than ever to restore a reliable and robust revenue stream to our local fire departments by making corporations pay their fair share. With new threats from climate change, population increases, and federal and local budget cuts, it is time to find a real solution. It’s time to reform Prop. 13.
Click here to sign the petition to bring back critical funding for our local services and fire departments!