CSAC Bulletin Article

Split Roll Measure Faces Uphill Fight

October 3, 2019

Californians slightly favor a possible 2020 ballot measure that would tax commercial property at its fair market value, while allowing residential and small business property to retain its current Proposition 13 protections. The increased revenue from this split roll measure would go to primarily to schools, counties, cities, and special districts.

In a PPIC survey released this morning, somewhat more than half (57%) of respondents favored the change, although slightly less than half (47%) of likely voters said they would vote yes, with a third (34%) saying they would vote no and 9% saying they don’t know. Traditionally, support for taxes measures declines over the course of a campaign, so while it’s still early days, the initiative’s proponents have a difficult fight ahead.

The survey also found that a $15 billion school construction bond, which the Legislature has passed and the Governor is considering, is favored by 54% of likely voters, while a possible bond to fund water infrastructure enjoys approval from 57% of likely voters.

Yesterday, the Legislative Analyst released their review of the new version of the split roll ballot initiative that proponents filed last month. (A previous version of the initiative has already qualified for the November 2020 ballot, but could be withdrawn by proponents in favor of this amended version or if they reach a deal with the Legislature and Governor). The review is an excellent resource for county officials looking for a non-partisan summary of the measure and its likely effects.

Among other findings, the review estimates that the initiative would increase property taxes by $7.5 billion to $12 billion upon full implementation (the 2025-26 fiscal year), after accounting for the increase in business personal property exemptions.

After paying for the increased workload in county assessors’ offices and reimbursing the state General Fund for income tax losses, the Analyst estimates that counties and other local governments would receive higher revenues of about $3.9 billion to $6.9 billion per year, while K-12 schools and community colleges would receive about $2.6 billion to $4.6 billion.

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