Prop. 13 pro­po­nents, law­mak­ers dis­cuss com­pro­mise on bal­lot ini­tia­tive

The Mercury News Weekend - - BUSINESS - By KatyMur­phy kmur­phy@ba­yare­anews­group.com

SACRA­MENTO » Just as a bal­lot ini­tia­tive that would dra­mat­i­cally ex­pand Propo­si­tion 13 tax ben­e­fits for long­time home­own­ers was deemed el­i­gi­ble for the Novem­ber bal­lot on Thurs­day, its pro­po­nents said they were ne­go­ti­at­ing with the Leg­is­la­ture on a com­pro­mise to avoid a bruis­ing and costly ini­tia­tive bat­tle.

“We’re pre­pared to pro­ceed,” said Christopher Carlisle, a lob­by­ist for the Cal­i­for­nia As­so­ci­a­tion of Realtors. “We’d just like to see if we can work out a deal with the Leg­is­la­ture where ev­ery­one goes home happy with­much lower costs.”

The ini­tia­tive would broaden the reach of a voter- ap­proved, 1978 con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment that pre­vents a home­owner’s prop­erty taxes from in­creas­ing sharply, even as their homes dou­ble or triple in value. It would al­low home­own­ers over 55 and those who are se­verely dis­abled to keep those lower tax obli­ga­tions for life, re­gard­less of where in Cal­i­for­nia they move or how many times.

The change, realtors say, will al­low empty-nesters to move out of sin­gle-fam­ily homes they no longer want but stay in mainly be­cause of their low prop­erty taxes, free­ing up the houses for fam­i­lies with chil­dren­who have been shut out of the­mar­ket.

Op­po­nents of the ini­tia­tive, in­clud­ing some leg­isla­tive Democrats, counter that it will drain sorely needed prop­erty tax revenue for schools and so­cial ser­vices while do­ing noth­ing to ad­dress the state’s hous­ing short­age.

The Leg­isla­tive An­a­lyst’s Of­fice es­ti­mates it will ul­ti­mately cost schools and lo­cal govern­ments bil­lions of dol­lars, a con­clu­sion the realtors have dis­puted.

“It’s a dis­torted ex­pan­sion be­yond what the vot­ers were try­ing to do with Propo­si­tion 13, an ex­per­i­ment that has failed,” said Assem­bly­man David Chiu, D- San Fran­cisco, who heads the Assem­bly hous­ing com­mit­tee.

The realtors’ as­so­ci­a­tion has un­til June 28 to pull the ini­tia­tive from the Novem­ber bal­lot. Un­til then, Carlisle said, it will push for leg­is­la­tion that would place an al­ter­na­tive mea­sure di­rectly on theMarch 2020 pri­mary bal­lot.

Only the Leg­is­la­ture has the au­thor­ity to put ini­tia­tives be­fore vot­ers in lower-turnout pri­mary elec­tions, so the list of com­pet­ing mea­sures would be much shorter, mak­ing the cam­paign less costly.

But cam­paign fi­nance records sub­mit­ted to the Cal­i­for­nia Sec­re­tary of State sug­gest that the as­so­ci­a­tion has been gearing up for a ma­jor cam­paign.

The realtors’ po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee sup­port­ing the ini­tia­tive raised $15 mil­lion within the first four months of the year and had more than $ 20.5 mil­lion in cash as of late April.

Chiu said the as­so­ci­a­tion had yet to con­tact him about a po­ten­tial com­pro­mise. But, he added, “I’m will­ing to talk.”

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