Has Prop. 13 Really Robbed California of Property-Tax Revenue?


San Diego Union-Tribune editorial writer Chris Reed, in response to the received wisdom that Prop. 13 has wrecked California's finances, runs some quick numbers to see what the state's property tax haul has been the past quarter century:

Remember, Prop. 13 is not a hard cap of property taxes. Levies are adjusted to current market value when property changes hands. And that happens all the time.

According to the latest info from the Board of Equalization […] total property taxes collected in 2006-07 were $43.16 billion.

The oldest property tax stats I could find were for 1980-81, from caltax.org. That year, property tax revenue was $6.36 billion.

Daddy, is the Chemosphere paying its fair share?

So since shortly after Prop. 13's adoption, property tax revenue increased by 579 percent. That is not a typo. It went up 579 percent.

During the same span, population went from 24 million to 38 milion -- an increase of 58 percent.

As for inflation, as of January 1981, the rough midpoint of the 1980-81 fiscal year, the Consumer Price Index -- which gauges inflation -- was 88. As of January 2007, it was 202.4. That is a 133 percent increase.

So property tax revenue has increased by more than triple the combined rate of inflation and population growth -- 579 percent versus 191 percent. […]

[I]n 1980-1981, the total of all general and special fund revenue for the state of California was $22.1 billion. For 2006-07, it was $120.7 billion. […] That is an increase of 555 percent.


Read the whole thing for links to the source material. And make sure to read Brian Doherty's great piece on California's budget realities from earlier today.