Where would property taxes be without initiative process?
January 5, 2006
Don CaslerMy TurnI read, and was shocked, at the column (“Direct democracy: Good, bad or ugly?”) written by the honorable Ted Owens, our District V supervisor in the Dec. 23 issue of the Sierra Sun.Overall, I felt his article was informative, although overly critical of our state constitution’s right of the people to petition for a correction of something the Legislature is either unable or unwilling to correct with due process. Mr. Owens feels that the voters have tied the hands of the legislators by passing too many initiative propositions. He advocates putting an end to the initiative process he calls “direct democracy.” He feels the voters are too dumb to cast an informed vote.After his election, Gov. Schwarzenegger found himself in the unenviable position of admitting that trying to persuade the legislators in Sacramento to fix the major problems in California was a joke. He soon found out that in Sacramento the name of the game is “don’t make waves,” just “get reelected.”To do that you need to stay in the good graces of the non-elected lobbyists. That is where the money is. The governor took on the unions and school lobbies, with their much deeper pockets, and lost. Too bad for California. I think that may have been our last chance.Mr. Owens stated that there are more than 90 filings for initiatives each year. This surely sounds like the voters have given up on waiting for the Legislature to act. After all, it is very costly and time consuming to file an initiative petition. It is not done frivolously but out of necessity and frustration.Mr. Owens sites the effects of Proposition 13, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association initiative, overwhelmingly approved by the voters in 1978. He states that Prop 13 effectively removed a primary revenue source for local governments to provide basic public services. I disagree. The HJTA also disagrees. The 1 percent property tax limitation provides more than sufficient funding for basic public services.In 1977 property taxes in many California counties ranged from 2 percent to over 3 percent of the assessed value yearly. Property taxes were going up about 40 percent to 60 percent yearly. Your home was re-assessed every few years, plus the assessment rate increased yearly, which caused people to lose their property for non-payment of their property tax. The Legislature was powerless to change the taxing structure to fix the problem.Can you imagine what property taxes would be today, almost 28 years later if it were not for Prop 13? Most of us currently living here in Truckee would not be able to afford to live here any longer. Certainly local government has had to tighten their fiscal belt a little, but isn’t that the way it is supposed to be?Each year several bills are introduced in the Legislature, the effect of which if enacted into law, could destroy Prop 13 and its two-thirds super-majority vote to raise property and other taxes.If Mr. Owens was in the California Legislature, we don’t need to ask how he would vote on these bills. To advocate taking away my right to initiative petition … sorry, too liberal for me.Don Casler is a 33-year Truckee resident. My Turn is a column for readers of the Sierra Sun. Send submissions between 500 and 700 words to email@example.com.