For crying out loud, not again! Proposition 13 tax limits may be irrevocably changed by an amendment to the state Constitution in a bill introduced by Democrat senators in their insatiable hunger for ever more taxes.
Here’s how Proposition 13 came about. In 1960, new homes sold for $12,000 to $20,000 and my older brother bought his first home in Clairemont brand new for $15,000 and 5.5 percent interest rate. By 1978, his property taxes, reflecting the high inflation rates of the era, were approaching his annual house payments.
For millions of California homeowners who had bought earlier and cheaper, their property taxes exceeded their annual mortgage payments; hence the major impetus for Proposition 13. Politicians, ever since, have been attacking it as unfair and an illegal gift of public funds.
"In this world nothing can be said to be permanent, except death and taxes," Ben Franklin said. The first record of taxation we have is the Rosetta Stone, a decree of King Ptolemy V, written in 196 B.C. It was "written in stone" — a confirmation of Franklin's fear about permanence.
William the Conqueror introduced a more all-encompassing record of taxation in 1086 called The Domesday Book. It is the oldest government book in the United Kingdom's National Archives. Kings, by divine right, owned everything in their realm and it was so detailed that "not one ox nor one cow nor one pig" was omitted. It was the ideal revenue source because everybody and everything was taxed.
The cry, "No taxation without representation" would crop up from time to time such as in the Magna Carta in 1215 and our Boston Tea Party in 1773, but the earliest most titillating tax revolt was Lady Godiva's protest in the 11th century against her husband taxing policies. Naked, on her horse she rode through the streets of Coventry -- only her long tresses covering her body. Legend has it that only Tom the tailor peeped, and the term "Peeping Tom" was born.
Not surprisingly, tax collectors throughout history have not been loved. In Biblical times, tax collectors received a fee for their services. However, after a while, governments began outsourcing the work to the highest bidder, who paid for the job in advance and collections often devolved into extortion.
So hated were tax collectors that Jesus said when people don't listen, "treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector" (Matthew 18:17).
Proposition 13, approved in 1978, limits property taxes to 1 percent of assessed value and limits the amount assessments can be increased to 2 percent a year – until the property is sold and reassessed.
State Sens. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, submitted a constitutional amendment (SCA 5) in June to make a basic change in Proposition 13: tax business properties and residences differently, a so-called "split roll."
Surprise, surprise. Democrats want a split tax roll to generate more taxes. This, despite government being awash in money; it has streams of money, rivers of money, oceans of money. There is no greed like government greed and politicians want to tax everything that moves or stands still, just like in 1086.
No government — federal, state or local — is short of money that can redistribute billions of dollars for professional sports and solar companies; free college tuitions; free services for illegal immigrants; unemployment benefits for millionaires; brand new homes for poor people; subsidies for golfers, operas, symphonies and ballets; billion-dollar B-2 bombers; bridges and bullet trains to nowhere plus business loans to America's largest corporations.
The indisputable common denominator is votes and campaign contributions, payment for taking from the rich, middle class and poor and giving to rich, middle class and poor, after government first retains its transaction fees.
"Eventually you run out of other people's money," as we've seen in Detroit; San Bernardino; Mammoth Lakes; Stockton; Jefferson County, Ala.; Harrisburg, Pa., (47 municipalities in all) not to mention Greece, Iceland, Argentina, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Ecuador and Sweden before it dumped socialism.
Richard Rider has documented that "San Diego County, in 1977 — the year before Proposition 13 took effect — our countywide property tax revenue was about $639 million. For the recently completed 2013-14 fiscal year, our county treasurer reports that real estate property tax revenues were $4.932 billion.
“And according to the County Assessor, since Proposition 13 passed, 97 percent of the pre-Proposition 13 county owner-occupied homes has changed hands (and been reassessed) at least once.
“During that time frame, our county population has grown almost 90 percent, and inflation has gone up about 290 percent. Hence, property tax revenues today are higher than the bloated Pre-Proposition 13 year, even after adjusting for inflation and population growth."
While businesses have to rely on voluntary cooperation, governments rely on force, coercion and intimidation. However, it's important to note that government is not a "necessary evil," as claimed by Thomas Paine.
Government is indispensable for protecting us against foreign and domestic bullies, protecting our private property and invoking a common system of justice — i.e., indispensable when government is properly and constitutionally limited.
To be sure, some politicians act as if anything less than 100 percent of your income is a tax loophole. Their plan is to divide and conquer the beneficiaries of Proposition 13's tax limits between businesses and residences, and they must be fought through "eternal vigilance."
Milton Friedman summarized it best as "I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible."
The demand for the split roll is the camel's nose under the tent. Proponents ultimately hope to get all Proposition 13 rescinded so they can tax, tax, tax to their heart's desire.