Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Anti-Tax Revolt

Or should it be called the Anti "Tax revolt" revolt? I don't know. What I do know is that the conservative tax "revolts" of the 70's and 80's which lead to travesties like prop 13 here in California are finally now being re-examined by citizens who appreciate that society costs money. Specifically, Colorado has finally done away with TABOR, an insidious little piece of legislation which limited the amount people could vote to invest in their public infrastructure. That's liberal-speak for limiting taxes.

Of course, the whole idea that the original tax "revolt" was anything other than a plot by Big Business to slip out from their obligations while making America less competitive is kind of silly. I realize that conservatives like to pooh-pooh framing when our side does it but you've got hand it to them for doing such a good job framing the issue. Calling it a "revolt" makes it sound like Ronald Reagan and Grover Norquist stormed the Bastille instead of just pushing a plan with tons of money from special business interests.

Sure, when they passed prop 13 they talked a lot about little old ladies not being able to afford their property tax but the end result was that government shifted property taxes from business to people, specifically new home buyers. Since Prop 13 ensured that property taxes could never go up (more than a certain small percentage) once you bought the house, the only way to invest in California was to raise beginning tax rates. And since owning your own home is one of the greatest ways to get out of poverty you can imagine what that's done to our economy. Meanwhile, business unlike people could move out of a building in fractions (first moving out a third of your people, then another third etc) so as to not set off the property reassessment in Prop 13. The end result is the businesses in California don't pay nearly as much property tax as do people.

Hopefully, California can follow Colorado's lead.


Good for you for bringing up this topic, Tommaso. However, I'm afraid that much as Social Security is called the third rail of American politics, Prop 13 is the third rail of California politics.

Democrats have repeatedly tried to modify it over the years, without any success. I have no idea how much damage will have to become readily and unmistakedly visible before it sinks in that Prop 13 and the 2/3 rule for raising taxes must be changed.
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