A new Field Poll has been released showing broad continuing support for Proposition 13, California’s famous tax limitation initiative. The main "headline" item from this poll is that "by a greater than two to one margin (63% to 29%) voters say that if Prop 13 were up for a vote again today they would endorse it." Those two figures are impressively close to the for/against split of 65% to 35% reflected in the actual vote on Proposition 13 in June 1978. If our taste in music had that kind of durability, we'd all still be listening to the Bee Gees. Pretty impressive. Night Fever aside, there is one disappointing feature of this latest report, which claims to reveal "stronger opposition to a split roll property tax than in any previous Field Poll conducted since Prop 13 was approved." The report indicates that 50 percent of respondents disapproved of a "split roll" property tax in which "business and commercial property owners would be taxed at a higher rate than owners of residential property" (41 percent approved). But of course a split roll property tax need not involve a higher rate on business property-- in fact, as I and others have advocated, it might make the most sense (both economically and politically) to eliminate the acquisition value feature of Prop 13 for commercial/industrial property (and replace it with a system of periodic reassessment to market value) but combine that reform with a lower rate for commercial/industrial property. It would've been useful to have some sense of how voters would feel about that type of reform instead of the split-roll caricature that was actually presented in the poll.
Kirk J. Stark, Professor of Law, UCLA