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EDITORIAL UNDERMINING PROP. 13.

IT'S always for a good cause.

First it was the schools and community colleges.

That was Proposition 39. At the time, it was argued that when Proposition 13 was passed, no one could have foreseen what it would do to education. The bar was too high, almost no community could muster the support to overcome Proposition 13's requirement that tax increases have to pass by a two-thirds majority.

There were not enough schools, there was colossal overcrowding, the old schools were in such bad shape that learning could not take place in them. Roofs leaked, paint was peeling and air conditioning was needed desperately.

It's for the children.

And so Proposition 39 passed in 2000, lowering the requirement for passing school bonds from two-thirds majority to 55 percent.

School bonds are almost guaranteed passage. School and colleges in California have passed $14 billion in bonds. That's $14 billion in new property taxes, most of it paid for by newer homeowners and newer businesses - that can least afford it - because longtime property owners pay much less thanks to Proposition 13.

Now, through a disastrous confluence of mismanagement at almost all levels of government and a punch-drunk economy, new champions of more good causes have raised their banners to try their luck tilting at that bane of big-spending California governments - Proposition 13.

First came the California State Sheriff's Association proposing a constitutional amendment that would let a smaller majority of voters approve local taxes to fund public safety measures.

Who can argue that public safety is not a good cause. Shouldn't the children be safe as well as educated?

Now comes the transportation folks.

The Assembly Committee on Transportation has passed a bill that would make it equally easy to raise money for improving roadways. This time it's a constitutional amendment affecting sales tax.

If it becomes law, regional transportation commissions could add another half-cent sales tax on every dollar with just 55 percent support.

The San Fernando Valley's own Sen. Richard Alarcon wants to take the assault a step further and give local governments the power to raise taxes for infrastructure projects with just 55 percent voter approval.

Officials who have managed to spend so freely over the years and achieved so little are chipping away at Proposition 13 and they always argue it's for a good cause. It's for the children, it's for your own safety, it's for better roads, it's for worthy public projects.

They are killing Proposition 13 with a death of a thousand cuts.

But not one of them has screwed up the courage to actually offer a proposal to rationalize the tax system. That would take a measure of integrity and a lot of work to define fundamental changes that shared the tax burden more equitably.

Instead of trying to bamboozle and beguile the public into undoing Proposition 13 piece by piece, it would be refreshing to see leaders of both the parties put the real issue on the table and come up with a new tax policy that shares the burdens and benefits more fairly.

And then let's see them put it to a vote again - with a two-thirds majority needed for passage.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Apr 24, 2003
Words:528
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