Proposition 13, the landmark legislation that reduced California's property taxes and limited the amount they could be increased each year, turned 30 today.
So with states and localities scrambling for revenue and cutting services, how do Californians like the watershed tax reduction measure now? Apparently a lot.
A just-released public opinion poll reveals that Proposition 13, originally passed by a 2-to-1 landslide, is just about as popular with voters today as it was in 1978.
The Field Poll found that if the measure were on the ballot today,
Only 23 percent of survey respondents said they would vote "no." The remaining 20 percent said they weren't sure.
"If there's a surprise in the whole survey, it's that there really hasn't been any change," Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said.
For you young tax geeks, Proposition reduced California home assessments to 1975-76 levels. It also limited property taxes to
The original tax revolt legislation soon spread eastward, with nearly half of the states enacting similar measures. And Prop 13 was the catalyst for President Ronald Reagan's tax cuts in 1981.
What are they (we) thinking? Dicamillo's expression of surprise at the poll results was remarkably restrained.
Personally, I'm astounded.
Are people really that unable to connect the dots? The only way to pay for services -- law enforcement, education, infrastructure -- is by collecting taxes.
Or do we live not only in tax-capped states, but also a perpetual state of denial?
Despite the bad example set by Washington, D.C., haven't we finally realized that no person or entity can survive in continual debt mode?
Are we not paying attention to painful fallout from the subprime lending crisis, which has revealed how destructive it is to live in a fiscal dream world?
Apparently not, judging by the responses of Californians in this latest Proposition 13 poll.
Certainly we must demand our lawmakers spend our money wisely, but we shouldn't just cut them -- and ourselves -- off financially. Ultimately, that's a destructive fiscal strategy.
Frank D. Russo, publisher of the California Progress Report, parses the poll here. Sometimes, he notes, how a question is asked makes a big difference in the response.
I hope so. Some kind of explanation for this continued refusal to pay for government services would be welcome.
But I fear we've been Pavlovianly conditioned to automatically connect "tax" with "cut."
Academic exploration: On this 30th anniversary of Proposition 13, academics, policy experts and journalists have gathered
"Proposition 13 at 30: The Political, Economic and Fiscal Impacts" examines the legacy of the state constitutional amendment, not only in California but nationwide.
Click here for the full program schedule and participant list.