Law­mak­ers eye Prop. 13 change

Mea­sure would boost tax rev­enue from com­mer­cial build­ings.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Chris Mege­rian chris.mege­rian @la­times.com Twit­ter: @chris­mege­rian

Plan would boost tax rev­enue from com­mer­cial prop­er­ties.

SACRA­MENTO — Two Demo­cratic state sen­a­tors plan to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion Wed­nes­day to over­haul Propo­si­tion 13, the state’s land­mark re­stric­tions on prop­erty taxes, so lo­cal gov­ern­ments can raise more rev­enue from com­mer­cial and industrial prop­er­ties.

The mea­sure would al­low for regular re­assess­ments of of­fices, fac­to­ries and other build­ings, en­sur­ing that they are taxed at closer to cur­rent mar­ket value. Cur­rently they’re re­assessed only when there’s a change in own­er­ship.

The change would not ap­ply to res­i­dences or agri- cul­tural prop­erty, and there would be new tax breaks to help small busi­nesses.

If ap­proved by the Leg­is­la­ture, the mea­sure would be placed on the bal­lot in Novem­ber 2016. The mea­sure is au­thored by Sens. Loni Han­cock (D-Berke­ley) and Holly Mitchell (D-Los An­ge­les), and is backed by the Make it Fair cam­paign, a coali­tion of unions and ac­tivists who have pushed for changes to Propo­si­tion 13.

Sup­port­ers say the change could raise $9 bil­lion for schools and lo­cal gov­ern­ments, help­ing to re­duce class­room sizes, hire more cops and patch pot­holes.

“I don’t think there’s any­one in Cal­i­for­nia that can’t look around their lo­cal com­mu­nity and see how great the need is,” Mitchell said.

How­ever, the sen­a­tors and their sup­port­ers face an up­hill climb to get the is­sue on the bal­lot.

First, it would re­quire a two-thirds vote in the Leg­is­la­ture, which means it would need at least a hand­ful of Repub­li­can votes.

Han­cock said she and Mitchell would build sup­port with “mem­ber-by-mem­ber con­ver­sa­tions.”

She added: “That is the only way that we’re go­ing to do it. This is a con­ver­sa­tion that needs to hap­pen.”

If the is­sue reaches the bal­lot, it could be an ex­pen­sive cam­paign, pit­ting unions who de­sire ad­di­tional gov­ern­ment fund­ing against busi­nesses that fear ex­tra taxes cut­ting into their bot­tom lines.

A re­cent poll from the Public Pol­icy In­sti­tute of Cal­i­for­nia found that 50% of likely vot­ers sup­ported the idea, down from 60% in Jan­uary 2012. The poll was con­ducted by phone from May 17 through May 25. It in­cluded re­sponses from 1,706 Cal­i­for­nia res­i­dents and had a mar­gin of sampling er­ror of plus or mi­nus 3.6 per­cent­age points.

The con­tro­ver­sial pro­posal would ar­rive less than a year af­ter a nar­rower mea­sure died in the Leg­is­la­ture. That bill, from As­sem­bly mem­bers Tom Am­mi­ano (D-San Fran­cisco) and Raul Bo­cane­gra (D-Pa­coima), would have curbed the abil- ity of busi­nesses to divvy up prop­erty own­er­ship in a man­ner that helps avoid tax re­assess­ments when a build­ing changes hands.

“It dealt with some very spe­cific abuses,” said Jon Coupal, pres­i­dent of the Howard Jarvis Tax­pay­ers Assn., which is named af­ter the ac­tivist be­hind Propo­si­tion 13. The new mea­sure be­ing pushed by Han­cock and Mitchell is “way, way be­yond that,” and the group would op­pose it.

If the mea­sure isn’t ap­proved by the As­sem­bly, sup­port­ers could still col­lect pe­ti­tion signatures to place it on the bal­lot.

“I would cer­tainly hope that the groups that are sup­port­ing this would stand up to the plate and do that,” Han­cock said.

Pho­tos by Rich Pedroncelli AP

HOLLY MITCHELL (D-Los An­ge­les) is coau­thor­ing the mea­sure.

LONI HAN­COCK (DBerke­ley) will try to get the is­sue on the ’16 bal­lot.

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