Today, we’re digging a little deeper, one last time, into Proposition 15, the complicated, seemingly mundane, but ultimately very consequential measure on Californians’ ballots.
It would change the way commercial properties are taxed, partially rolling back Proposition 13, the landmark 1978 measure that capped property tax increases and has been a defining force in California fiscal policy ever since.
[Refresh your memory on the highest-profile ballot initiatives this year.]
Here’s what he said:
You explain this in the story, but can you set up the stakes for Proposition 15? Why is it such a big deal for Californians?
Well for starters, if it passes it would be one of the biggest tax increases in state history, so that alone is a big deal. But there is also a lot of symbolism here.
Proposition 13 has defined California’s land and politics since 1978 and has been considered untouchable ever since. Even a tiny step toward rolling it back would be a big deal, and this is a big step. So if it’s successful it will change our perception of what’s considered politically possible.
Proposition 13 is uniquely a product of California. But are there ways in which the fight over it has influenced national debate or federal policy? And how does Proposition 15 fit into the national economic picture?
Proposition 13 is widely credited with kick-starting a nationwide tax revolt, and there are other places, like Florida, that have laws that limit how fast property values can be reassessed. So it’s not completely unique.
What I think is significant here is Proposition 15 seems to suggest a new attitude toward taxes and a desire to tax large corporations. If you believe the adage that California is a look at the nation’s future — and that certainly applied to Prop. 13 in 1978 — then, like I said, there’s some symbolism here of the original tax revolt potentially getting reversed.
Say Proposition 15 passes. How much would proponents see that as an opportunity to ask voters to change the residential property side of things? Or is there a sense that they’d just take the win?
I don’t think anyone will go near residential homes for a while, if ever. Proposition 13 is still incredibly popular.
[Read the full story here.]
Now, say Proposition 15 fails. What would happen then? Would the “Yes” campaign regroup and come back in two years or four years? Are there other ways policymakers might try to generate that money? (Notably, the other Proposition 13 that was on the ballot earlier this year failed, so is a big bond measure off the table for a while?)
Over the past year Californians seem to have become less amenable to tax increases. Will that affect Prop. 15? Hard to say.
Coming back at it will be hugely expensive so I suspect it will be a while before that gets tried again, but it depends on how close the Proposition 15 race is.
What will you be watching most closely as the results come in? What questions are you hoping to answer?
I’ll be watching the margins. If it barely passes or barely fails, I expect that will mean one side or the other will continue to take a whack at it in future elections — remember, even if it passes, the “No” side can try to roll back the rollback in a more favorable election. But if it’s a definitive failure or definitive victory, that gives either outcome a better chance at sticking.
Read more about the election:
“America is facing a serious challenge to its position as the leader of the ‘rules-based’ world.” Former Gov. Jerry Brown weighs in on the election from Colusa County. [The New York Review]
Here’s how to vote if you’ve lost your home in a wildfire. [CapRadio]
The state is trying to help those who need an interpreter to vote — but it’s tough this year. [CalMatters]
If you missed it, a report found that more work must be done to get first-time or harder-to-reach voters to the polls. [The New York Times]
Should I mail my ballot? What happens if one side doesn’t accept the results of the election? And other questions about the election that anxious people may have. [The New York Times]
After you’ve finished stressing out more, take this quiz to see if you can tell a “Trump fridge” from a “Biden fridge.” (It is bizarrely mesmerizing and surprisingly difficult.) [The New York Times]
Here’s what else to know today
Evacuees who fled the Silverado Fire returned to their homes, surrounded by scorched earth but no destruction: “I don’t know how this row of houses are still standing.” [The Orange County Register]
How does your state make electricity? See how California’s mix has shifted over the past two decades. [The New York Times]
Los Angeles public schools are unlikely to reopen for in-person instruction until at least January, board members said. [The Los Angeles Times]
As other counties in the Bay Area have progressed through the state’s coronavirus reopening process, Solano County is the only one in danger of moving backward. Officials blame several “huge inappropriate gatherings.” [The San Francisco Chronicle]
Read about California’s tiered reopening plan. [The New York Times]
The state’s treasurer pressured employees to show up to the office during the pandemic, asking them to demonstrate “courage and resolve,” emails and interviews show — although employees said they didn’t need to be there, and in-person work quotas seemed arbitrary. [Politico]
Justin Turner, the Dodgers’ third baseman who was pulled from the team’s World Series-winning game on Tuesday night because he tested positive for the coronavirus, refused to stay off the field during the celebrations, Major League Baseball said. [The New York Times]
Cecilia Chiang, a San Francisco legend and the mother of Chinese cuisine in America, has died. [The San Francisco Chronicle]
Read more about Ms. Chiang’s 99th birthday celebration. [The New York Times]
The Times wants to hear from essential workers in the food industry: How has your job changed during the pandemic? What sacrifices have you had to make? What has it meant to you to be an essential worker? Please let us know at the link. [The New York Times]
Noah Centineo started a voting pop-up for influencers in Los Angeles. (If you understood that sentence, chances are you are younger than a millennial.) He gives out tours, during which he is sometimes barefoot and always masked. [The New York Times]
California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected]. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.
Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.