Gov. Jerry Brown’s job approval rating is at a record-high, Californians are feeling more positive about the direction of the state and while Proposition 13 remains popular, so too is the notion of a “split roll” – leaving residential property tax rates alone but taxing commercial properties at their market value.
These are some of the findings of the latest statewide survey from the Public Policy Institute of California that reveals increasing optimism and readiness to engage a number of budget reforms that could put the state on an even firmer footing going forward.
With Brown’s 48% job approval rating – his highest ever – and 44% of the population seeing California on the right track – the highest level since June 2007 – the governor and Legislature are well-positioned to take on important challenges.
Top among them would be to modify Proposition 13 – long thought to be untouchable – to do only what it was supposed to do when it was sold by Howard Jarvis to the voters of California in 1978: protect homeowners from out-of-control property tax increases.
By a 57-36% margin, voters responded positively when asked this question: Under Proposition 13, residential and commercial property taxes are both strictly limited. What do you think about having commercial properties taxed according to their current market value? Do you favor or oppose this proposal?
Democrats favor the idea 66-26% and independents like the prospect 58-36%. Even Republicans are evenly divided 47-48%. Voters aged 18-34, who represent the future, favor the idea 65-28% but the idea is also popular among the most reliable voters, those 55 and older, by 56-39%.
Splitting the tax roll is a popular idea in every region of the state, among men and women equally and especially among Asians (65-26%) and Latinos (58-36%) but also among whites (56-38%).
In other words, there is a deep and wide mass base of support for modifying Proposition 13.
At the same time, Californians are prepared to accept spending reforms. According to PPIC, strong majorities favor:
— Strictly limiting the amount of money that state spending can increase each year (65% adults, 65% likely voters)
— Increasing the size of the state’s rainy day fund and requiring that above-average revenues be deposited there for use in economic downturns (72% adults, 70% likely voters)
–Requiring any major new or expanded state program or tax reductions to identify a specific funding source (79% adults, 82% likely voters)
Smaller majorities of Californians—and even fewer likely voters—support three fiscal reforms that have been proposed to address structural issues in the state budget and local budget issues:
— Establishing a two-year state budget cycle in place of the current one-year cycle (56% adults, 49% likely voters)
— Replacing the two-thirds majority vote requirement with a simple majority vote for the state legislature to pass state taxes (51% adults, 45% likely voters)
— Replacing the two-thirds vote requirement with a 55-percent majority vote for voters to pass local special taxes (54% adults, 50% likely voters)
Whether Gov. Brown – with his intense commitment to high-speed rail – has the stomach to take on Proposition 13 and other fiscal reforms is far from clear. But the PPIC survey suggests that after nearly a quarter of a century, voters are ready to modify the property tax measure that fundamentally altered politics in California.