|Before voters get too consumed with the upcoming November election and the myriad of special-interest initiatives on the ballot, let’s take a moment to review a harsh lesson in ballot measure “bait and switch” tactics, specifically Proposition 19 from November 2020. What happened with that measure could easily repeat itself with one of the initiatives we’ll be voting on in a few weeks.
Prop. 19 (2020) repealed an important taxpayer protection from the California Constitution that taxpayers had relied on for nearly 35 years. When it went into effect, it resurrected the Death Tax on property owners that voters had eliminated back in 1986. Since 2020, thousands of Californians who have suffered the death of a parent have received notifications from county assessors that their family property will be reassessed to current market value, triggering a huge tax increase.
A recent hearing before California’s Board of Equalization highlighted the pain that Prop. 19 has caused. In fact, the damage inflicted on California families increases with every death of a parent or grandparent who owns real estate.
In its weekly CalTaxLetter, the California Taxpayers Association reported that the BOE’s annual Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights hearing, held August 30 in Sacramento, was dominated by property owners blasting Proposition 19 for triggering major property tax increases on inherited properties. “For approximately four hours, property owners testified that Proposition 19 is wiping out the wealth of lower- and middle-class families whose elders sacrificed to become property owners, intending to pass property to children and grandchildren. Many of the witnesses blasted the sponsors, accusing them of misleading voters.”
One of the ploys used by Prop. 19 proponents was to include a convoluted provision that, in theory, was to provide additional funding for firefighting operations. This was a calculated move by the California Association of Realtors, the primary proponent of Proposition 19, to tug at the heartstrings of voters using a popular cause. Just as today, the months leading up to the general election in 2020 were dominated by fires burning throughout the state, so it was politically wise for CAR to dedicate a small fraction of the revenue to firefighters, a group that enjoys a high level of popularity.
— Jon Coupal, president, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association