SacBee: The latest on California politics and government
Posted by Jim Sanders
May 28, 2009 - With California facing fiscal calamity, the assessor for one of the state's largest cities has launched a long-term, grass-roots campaign to increase state revenue by altering Proposition 13 property tax restrictions.
San Francisco Assessor Philip Y. Ting filed documents this week with the secretary of state's office to create the "Close the Proposition 13 Loophole" committee, which now can begin soliciting donations.
The effort is intended to increase future state revenue, but not soon enough to ease next year's projected $24.3 billion shortfall.
Ting said his committee plans to solicit minimal sums initially, startup costs, but added, "We're really building a grass-roots movement around this issue with perhaps the long-term idea of going to the ballot."
Jesse Mainardi and Kevin Heneghan, attorneys for The Sutton Law Firm, are listed as officers of the committee. Mainardi formerly worked for the state Fair Political Practices Commission and Heneghan for a public policy law firm, Nielsen Merksamer.
Ting is not pushing a specific proposal, but he wants to see Proposition 13 altered to allow creation of a "split roll" that would increase taxes on commercial property, perhaps when it is sold.
The idea of a split roll has been gaining steam among Democratic lawmakers and interest groups that would like to see the state's fiscal problems solved by generating more revenue, not solely by program cuts.
Ting said there are many "split roll" possibilities, including creating a different tax rate for commercial property, reassessing it more often, or allowing it to increase at a faster annual pace than homes.
Ting said he launched the new political committee at the urging of numerous private individuals in the Bay Area and Northern California, but that he did not act at the behest of lawmakers or Capitol interest groups.
"I really felt strongly that change was going to come from the grass-roots level first, and if we started by working with all the Sacramento insiders first, that wasn't going to be the recipe for change," he said.
Ting said he does not believe that California voters, by rejecting five of six ballot measures last week, sent a clear message opposing new revenue generation by the state in years to come.
"I don't think people voted against spending so much," he said. "They voted against the fact that there wasn't any reform in those ballot measures. People are starving for systematic reform, which I think is very hard, it's very tough.
"It means that that we're going to have to talk about issues that a lot of people considered sacred cows. (Proposition 13) is obviously one of the most sacred cows in the state."
Categories: State budget