With 11 statewide propositions on the ballot for the Nov. 6 election, many people might not have read all there is to know about the initiatives and how they could affect California.
John Laird, state secretary of natural resources and former three-term state assemblyman, shared his knowledge of the most controversial propositions at an event sponsored by the Valley Women’s Club on Sept. 29 in Ben Lomond in Santa Cruz County.
Propositions 5, 6 and 10 request voter approval for changes in state law. What follows is an analysis of the initiatives and a partial list of supporters and detractors.
Proposition 5: Portable property tax break for seniors
Proposition 5 proposes to expand a “once-in-a-lifetime” tax break for seniors to “carry with them” the property tax of their existing home — usually low because it was bought many years ago — to a new home with much higher property taxes due to much higher purchase prices. This tax break is now allowed, in most counties, only if both homes are in the same county and the price of new home is not more than the market price of the home that is sold. Prop. 5 would expand this tax break for buyers 55 years or older to “carry” the low property tax rate of their original home to any county in the state for an unlimited number of new homes, regardless of the price.
According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the state’s nonpartisan budgetary accounting office, local governments and school districts stand to lose $2 billion a year — $1 billion each — in reduced tax revenue. The state government would be required to make up most of the difference, increasing state spending by a roughly equivalent amount. Some school districts in areas with high property taxes — roughly 5 percent across the state — would not be made entirely whole.
Laird identified the primary forces behind Prop. 5 as the California Association of Realtors and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. He said opponents contend that it’s a tax break for the wealthiest of Californians who are already benefiting from lower property taxes and that it would cause extremely difficult revenue shortfalls for local governments.
The Sacramento Bee editorial board wrote that “supporters say Proposition 5 would help California’s housing crises. That’s a sham.”
Supporters: California Association of Realtors, John Cox (Republican candidate for governor), California Republican Party, California Chamber of Commerce, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, The Bakersfield Californian.
Opponents: California State Association of Counties, California Teachers Association, California Democratic Party, California Republican Party, California State Sheriffs’ Association, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, The Press Democrat, Sacramento Bee.
Proposition 6: Repealing the gas tax
If passed, Proposition 6 would repeal the gas tax increase approved by the state Legislature in early 2017 with a two-thirds majority vote (Senate Bill 1), which generates about $2.6 billion a year in revenue — expected to increase to about $5 billion in 2020-21 — for improvements to local roads, state highways and public transportation. Prop. 6 not only repeals SB 1 but also requires voter approval for any future state taxes on gasoline or diesel.
Laird gave some background on the tax increase that Prop. 6 seeks to repeal. Laird said SB 1 was a very controversial and partisan bill, but it was also the first increase since 1992 of the state excise taxes on gasoline (raised by 12 cents per gallon) and diesel fuel (raised by 4 percent). The 1992 tax has not been adjusted for inflation, which means road improvement revenue “has shrunk by the amount of inflation since 1992 — reducing funding in the neighborhood of about 40-50 percent,” Laird said. In the same period, cars have become much more fuel efficient, with a growing number powered solely by electricity, stretching existing gas taxes for miles traveled even farther even as roads deteriorate under the strain of increased traffic.
Gov. Jerry Brown came out particularly strongly against this measure when it qualified for the ballot. In a tweet from his personal account, bracketed by warning-sign and thumbs-down emoji, he wrote: “This flawed and dangerous measure pushed by Trump’s Washington allies jeopardizes the safety of millions of Californians by stopping local communities from fixing their crumbling roads and bridges. Just say no.”
Supporters: John Cox (Republican candidate for governor), California Republican Party, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
Opponents: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (Democratic candidate for governor), California Democratic Party, Sierra Club California, California Chamber of Commerce, California Labor Federation, League of Women Voters of California, League of California Cities, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, The Mercury News.
Proposition 10: Local governments and rent control
Proponents of Prop. 10 emphatically point out what Prop. 10 is not — it is not rent control mandated by the state. The measure would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, an anti-rent-control law passed by the Legislature in 1995 that weakened some types of rent control already enacted by local governments and excluded any single-family home, condo or apartment built after 1995 from any local rent control. The Costa-Hawkins act mandated “vacancy de-control,” allowing previously controlled rents to rise to market rates upon vacancy.
The Sacramento Bee editorial board wrote that while it opposed rent control in principle, it strongly supported local control of local ordinances: “Despite the hype — of which there is plenty, thanks to tens of millions of dollars being spent by developers and property companies to kill it and by Michael Weinstein’s AIDS Healthcare Foundation to promote it — Proposition 10 isn’t really about rent control. It’s about local control, which is why we recommend Californians vote ‘yes.’”
Repealing the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act would give more power to local municipal and county governments to craft their own forms of rent control. Prop. 10 does require, however, that any form of rent control adopted by local governments ensure that landlords receive a “fair rate of return on investment.”
Both gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Gavin Newsom and Republican John Cox, oppose Prop. 10. Cox told Capital Public Radio that it is a “bad deal for renters,” while Newsom has stated that although he supports expanding renter protections, the repeal of Costa-Hawkins could have “profoundly problematic” consequences.
Supporters: California Democratic Party, California Teachers Association, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, California Nurses Association, League of Women’s Voters, SEIU California, Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee.
Opponents: California Republican Party, John Cox, California Apartment Association, California Chamber of Commerce, State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Orange County Register, Fresno Bee.