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Bruce Bialosky

Why Only Public Employees Should Vote for Proposition 15

There are many important propositions on the November ballot. In fact, all twelve props are significant and deserve your full attention. Nothing on the ballot is more important than votes on these issues. Of them all, the single most important is Proposition 15. It attempts to once again overturn the hallmark Proposition 13 that shook the world in 1978. This one is particularly devious, yet the only people who would not be harmed by its passing are public employees and their unions. Let me explain.

Proposition 15 would amend the California State Constitution to require commercial and industrial properties (except those zoned as commercial agriculture) to be taxed based on their market value. In California, the proposal would assess taxes on commercial and industrial properties at market value, while continuing to assess taxes on residential properties based on the purchase price. This has been referred to as “split roll.”

The ballot initiative would make an exception for properties whose business owners have $3 million or less in California holdings. These properties would continue to be taxed based on their purchase price. The ballot initiative would exempt a small business on tangible personal property from taxes on less than $500,000 in value for a non-small business on tangible personal property. Most people do not know counties also tax businesses on their tables and chairs and desks and compute.

The people who designed the initiative purposely exempted the collective buildings under $3 million. But in California it does not take much to get a valuation of over $3 million especially when public employees have a vested interest in increasing that valuation.

The other thing they did to attract voters was designating where the money is directed. Forty percent of Prop 15 revenues will be directed to K-12 schools and community colleges. Local governments will receive the remaining 60 percent. They not only tried to get voters to think the funds will support schools, but likewise community colleges. A question here is how they will manage tracking of these revenues five or even ten years in the future? How will the governments segregate the revenue and increases allowed under prop 13 and the new ones from prop 15? They will not be able to, and the monies will just go to the general funds of local government.

This is where the big lie comes at you. The supporters of the proposition state that “Ninety-two percent of the new tax revenue would come from 10 percent of the largest commercial and industrial property owners.” That is an absolute lie. These large building owners will pay virtually none of the increase in property taxes. The only ones that will are the small number of owners who occupy their properties like Disney who the supporters like to cite and cite and cite.

Every one of those buildings or shopping centers you drive by each day may be owned by a big company, but not one will get tagged by these new taxes. Every one of their tenants has a clause in their lease that allows the building owners to pass through these increased taxes to their tenants. And pass the new taxes through they will.

So, who will pay the new taxes? Your hair salon, your coffee shop, your yoga studio, your local gym, your grocery store, your local restaurant, your dentist, your chiropractor and your lowly CPA. Every one of these businesses will be hit with what could be huge new tax bills. Every one of them will be forced to recoup these new business costs and they will pass the new costs through to their customers. That means all of us. That means the price of orange juice, milk, coffee, hamburgers, and teeth cleaning will go up.

Businesses do not need this, particularly now when they have been told they cannot be open because of COVID. Just when the businesses that survived COVID get back on their feet they will be hit with these increases. That is a brilliant plan.

Where will the $8-12 billion that is estimated to be collected from this proposition go? The public employees — not one of whom was laid off during the pandemic. Not one lost a paycheck. Not one will have their pension cut back.

This measure is supported by federal, state, and local elected officials and public employee unions. It is also supported by the Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; elected officials who support it include mayors Eric Garcetti, London Breed, Libby Schaaf, and Darrel Steinberg, of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, and Sacramento, respectively. They also include United States Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

The mayors named above want the additional revenue, but will you get more public services? No. Will you get more trees trimmed, sidewalks fixed, or streets paved? No, no, and no. The money will go to the unions and/or their pensions.

Don’t be suckered by this. No rich real estate company is going to pay this tax — you are. It will hurt small businesses. And after they get this passed do you really think they are not going to come after raising taxes on your home? Their real goal: Getting rid of Prop 13 in total. We already have some of the highest tax rates in the country. We don’t need to also have the highest property tax rates.

That is why I said only public employee union members should vote for this. They are the only ones who will benefit unless you are the politicians who want to pay off their pension plans from your pocket.