Proposition 13 Reform Team/Civics Education Team

Photo Ruby MacDonald

Coordinator: 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


Make-it-Fair-med-bannerOur Campaign to Reform Proposition 13

As of Feb. 20, 2018 the Reform Prop 13 initiative, “The California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act of 2018” is still at the Attorney General’s office awaiting final title and summary. We expect the AG to release the approved initiative for circulation anytime now.  Meanwhile, we have had two sessions to train Leaguers to circulate the petitions effectively and legally.  If you want to get involved in circulating this initiative measure–led by the League of Women Voters of California and many other community organizations–contact

We need 1 Million signatures to put the Prop 13 Reform Initiative Measure,
“California Schools and Local Community Funding Act of 2018,” on the Nov. 2018
ballot. It would reform large commercial property assessments – but not
residential, rental, agricultural or small, commercial. It would require property tax
assessment of large, commercial property every three years, leave unchanged
conditions of property assessment for small business owners, homeowners,
renters and agricultural business owners but keep all tax assessments at 1% and
cap yearly increases at 2%. These changes would result in $11 billion in new
revenue for K-12 schools and other essential government services. If the measure
gets enough signatures, it will appear on the Nov 6, 2018 ballot.

The League of Women Voters of California has taken the lead in submitting this initiative for circulation on behalf of the many groups working together in the coalition.

Ed. Note: The “Make It Fair” signs in the above photo refer to the movement, announced in 2015, that eventually led to this initiative and was supported by hundreds of community groups, organizations and elected officials and bodies.


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 large commercial property to be taxed
at the original 1978 rate, although it may have changed hands and should have been
reassessed at higher, market rates. This loophole will be closed by requiring
commercial property of large businesses (greater than $2 million in value) to be
regularly assessed at market value through a ballot measure amending the State
Constitution. This change could provide an additional $11 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.