After 40 years, Proposition 13 still protects California taxpayers

By Joel Fox| The Proposition 13 tax revolt was more than an uprising against out-of-control property taxes. Passed by voters 40 years ago Wednesday, Proposition 13 survives in deep-blue California because it stands as a strong symbol not only about controlling taxation but also about voters’ power to command the government.

Howard Jarvis on election night June 6, 1978.After 40 years, the measure still has overwhelming public support. In a Public Policy Institute of California poll released in March, 65 percent of likely voters said Proposition 13 turned out to be a good thing, while only 23 percent said it was a bad thing. Prop. 13 has majority support across party, gender, education levels and ethnic, age and economic groups.

But over the past 40 years, spending interests have tried to destabilize Proposition 13, and it remains a target for those who want to tax more. Ending it would send notice nationally that the tax cutting fire is out.

Taxes haven’t exactly disappeared under Proposition 13. Property tax revenue is up 1,000% since 1978 and is growing faster than personal income. However, individual taxpayers are protected by Prop. 13, locking in property taxes when they buy their home and limiting future increases.

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