Super Majority to the Rescue

by Mark Wilson

For the first time in a gazillion years, Democrats have a super majority in both the California Senate and the General Assembly. What does this mean? Probably state-mandated abortions.

Just kidding. It’s state-mandated gay marriage.

Just kidding again. In truth, though, the state legislature can now roll back a lot of very bad things, not the least of which is Proposition 13. Thanks to anti-tax crusader Howard Jarvis, Prop. 13 has hamstringed the state since 1978, requiring a two-thirds majority of the legislature in order to raise property tax rates.

But that’s all well and good, right? Property tax rates are reassessed whenever the owner sells a property. So eventually the state is going to get some money.

Not so fast, commie! Property conglomerates — a.k.a. landlords — came up with a brilliant way around Prop. 13. Normally, a landlord owns a building, and when he or she wants to sell the building, its property taxes are reassessed for the next owner. Instead, in a post-Prop. 13 world, a corporation owns the building and a landlord owns shares in the corporation. A landlord who wants to sell the building sells shares in the corporation to someone else, but the building continues to be owned by the corporation. It’s never technically sold, even though the landlords change, and thus it can’t be reassessed.

California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano wants to change this, and rightfully so. But what Democrats need to do is go further and repeal Prop. 13 altogether. There’s no reason for it. Prop. 13 was passed by virulent anti-tax advocates during a time when property values in the state were on the rise. In order to protect their own bottom lines, property owners encouraged Prop. 13’s passage so that their taxes wouldn’t go up during a boom. That’s why we have it. And it’s stupid.