SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Anti-poverty advocates are rallying in Sacramento today saying California could raise $9 billion a year by fixing a loophole that froze certain commercial property tax rates back in 1978 when Prop 13 passed. Currently commercial property is taxed based on what the buyer pays for it, not at the market value.
So taxes often are linked to the property’s sale price decades earlier. Anthony Thigpenn from The Make It Fair campaign says the status quo favors big corporations and wealthy longtime property owners and it’s costing the state treasury billions.
“This is an issue that impacts every community in this state,” says Thigpenn. “Whether it’s education or roads or social services, the money needed to fulfill these obligations is not there because of these problems.”
The change would require an amendment to the state constitution. Allies in the Legislature plan to introduce a bill in the next few months. If that fails, they plan to gather signatures to put the issue on the 2016 ballot.
Opponents say the plan amounts to a massive tax increase on business owners which will drive companies out of California and cost jobs. Thigpenn dismisses that idea and says it’s time California revisited Prop 13.
“Prop 13 traditionally has been considered to be the third rail of politics because it
protected homeowners and capped the amount of property taxes they would pay,” he says. “Many homeowners don’t realize it also applied to commercial property taxes.”