Civics Education: Proposition 13 Reform

Photo Ruby MacDonaldCoordinator: Ruby MacDonald:

Monthly Team Meetings, the 3rd Saturday of the month,
10 am to 12 noon, at the League office,
2530 San Pablo, Berkeley.
Check the League Calendar for dates

The next meeting will be on the second Saturday of January, the 13th 10AM to Noon.
All interested parties Welcome! Inquiries: Ruby MacDonald,

Our Campaign to Reform Proposition 13

This is a video of the Proposition 13 Community Town Hall that the civics education team helped organize and support. It was made by Ken Bukowski.


Proposition 13 was passed overwhelmingly by voters in 1978 in response to skyrocketing property values and, consequently, increasing property taxes, which especially threatened older homeowners on fixed incomes. By limiting property taxes to 1% per year of the original purchase price and any increase in property taxes to 2% per year or the rate of inflation, Prop. 13 did ease the property tax burden of lower income homeowners. Since both residential and commercial property could be re-assessed at market value only on sale of the property, however, the capped, low rates introduced by Prop. 13 led to large state and local budget deficits which were masked at first by a booming economy.
Eventually, and especially during subsequent economic downturns, effects of deficits due to the large reduction in property tax revenue resulting from Prop. 13 became obvious. For example, before Prop. 13, California ranked 4th to 7th in the country in K-12 school spending. Today, California ranks close to the bottom. Many cities and counties in the East Bay and throughout the state have been forced to put parcel tax or bond measures on their ballots to fund K-12 education, infrastructure maintenance, upgrades of aging public transit systems and otherwise unaffordable public services. Students with low or moderate family income are being deprived of a higher education, as only students from upper income families can afford to attend UC Berkeley and other state institutions, which are now state-assisted, not state-supported.
To regain some of the revenue lost due to Prop. 13, state and local governments began to rely on revenues from personal income taxes and sales taxes to make up for the decrease in property taxes. Today 1/3 of the revenue collected by state and local governments comes from personal income taxes, 1/3 from sales taxes and 1/3 from property taxes. In addition, funds equal to 1/3 of the entire state and local budgets comes in various forms from the federal government. In spite of various “fixes” to address budget deficits, more needs to be done to reliably and fairly fund CA state and local governments.
One of the inequities that we seek to fix is exploitation by some large corporations of a “loophole” in Prop. 13, which allows their property to be taxed at the original 1978 rate, although it has changed hands and should have been reassessed at higher, market rates. Closing this loophole by requiring all commercial property to be regularly assessed at market value through a State Constitutional Amendment could provide an additional $9 billion in state revenue, according to a USC research study!

Efforts to  Reform  Prop. 13  by the  LWVBAE  Civics  Education  Team:

1) The Civics Ed Team proposed and received approval for a Reform Prop. 13 campaign as the top priority for LWVBAE in 2017-2018 at its January Program Planning meeting. The Legislative Committee of the state League had already signed on as a member of the Make It Fair Coalition of over 200 nonprofit community organizations in 2015, following introduction by Senators Loni Hancock and Holly Mitchell of a State Constitutional Amendment to require commercial, but not residential, property to be reassessed regularly.

2) In support of passage of the original Hancock/Mitchell State Constitutional Amendment on Prop. 13 Reform (SCA5), the Civics Education Team has completed the following projects:
First The Civics Education Team began to educate itself on Prop. 13, the need for its reform and other matters related to the budget process in California. This project is ongoing.
Second A subcommittee of the Civics Education Team has assembled a graphics-based brochure for use in educating voters about the need for Prop. 13 Reform.
Third A second subcommittee prepared and presented a caucus on the history, unintended consequences and promising reform of Prop. 13 and methods for promotion of Prop. 13 Reform at the state League convention in Sacramento in June.
Fourth We partnered with the Make It Fair coalition led by California Calls, Evolve and PolicyLink to hold a well-attended Town Hall on September 9 at the First Congregational Church of Oakland to raise awareness of and garner support for passage of Prop. 13 Reform. State Senators Nancy Skinner and Scott Wiener and Assemblymember Rob Bonta and a panel of other community leaders roused the 250 attendees to action at this kickoff Town Hall, the first of 5 such meetings to be held statewide. See the News article on this website.

3) Our latest project involves organization of a Speakers’ Bureau to educate the Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville communities on Prop. 13 Reform. If passage of a Prop. 13 Reform state constitutional amendment by the State Legislature is unlikely so that a ballot measure must be pursued, community outreach efforts will be critical to success of such a campaign. We welcome organizers, speakers and those knowing groups interested in services of the Speakers’ Bureau to our regular meetings on the 3rd Saturday morning of each month.