Citizens want to change Prop 13

July 1, 2009 11:50:55 PM PDT
Some blame California's current budget crisis in part on a decision voters made more than 30 years ago. Proposition 13 did much more than cap property taxes and now there is an effort underway to change it.

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The daunting two-thirds majority requirement to pass a budget and the cap on property taxes both stem from Proposition 13. It's what many say is a big reason why we're in this budget mess, but one group is taking action.

People came together Wednesday night to come up with ideas on how to modify Proposition 13. The concerned citizens believe altering the voter-approved initiative will help alleviate the budget crisis that emerges in Sacramento all too often.

"I'm worried. I care about communities and families and I want us to get the resources we need," says Oakland resident Aspen Baker.

Voters approved Proposition 13 in 1978. It places an annual one-percent cap on property taxes. It also requires a two-thirds majority of the legislature to raise taxes and approve state budgets. Californians voted overwhelmingly for the initiative -- with 64.8 percent voting yes -- and as a result, funding for key state programs have taken a dip. California for instance used to rank fifth in per pupil spending, now it ranks 47th.

"Without having a discussion about Proposition 13, there's no way to really fix the budget," says San Francisco Assessor Phil Ting.

Ting is helping lead the push to change Prop 13. The plan is to modify tax rates or assessments on commercial property -- which could bring in an estimated $7.5 billion if enacted today.

"We need to look at all the sacred cows in our budget system and this is probably the biggest one," says Ting.

But GOP strategist Sean Walsh says targeting commercial property would drive businesses away, which is the last thing California's economy needs.

"You have small businesses and medium businesses that are closing everyday in this recession and if you want to drive them out of business and out of town, likkity split this is the type of thing that you would do," says Walsh.

These people, though, are unconvinced. They're counting on their grass roots strategy to bring about changes to Prop 13.

"When my kids go to school, I want them to get the social services that we as Californians historically have always had," says San Francisco resident Gaurav Mehta.

Other efforts are underway in hopes of fixing California's problems.

The Bay Area Council, for example, wants to ask voters next year to call a state constitutional convention to address the state's budget process.

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