When the Bay Area was swishing its bell bottoms, standing tall with platforms and freeing the love in the late 70’s, voters approved Proposition 13, slashing taxes for public services. Our workforce education crept steadily down from 7th in 1970 to 50th in the nation.
Our guest blogger, NCG member Femke Freiberg has been studying how to reverse this trend. With a year of public policy grantmaking under her belt for The San Francisco Foundation (TSFF) she’s ready to share her enthusiasm for understanding the contemporary effects of Prop 13 on California.
How does California generate and spend its money? These decisions form the foundation of our daily lives—from roads to schools to the price you pay for a carton of eggs—and shape our relationship, as citizens, with our government.
When we pay taxes, we pool resources to provide services and build infrastructure for our own shared benefit. Based on this relationship, we have come to expect certain key provisions from government, including decent public schools, safe bridges, and police protection, to name a few. However, this public pact with government has been slowly unraveling over time in California as the state has disinvested in critical public services like fire stations, libraries, and highway repair.
Inadequate and unstable funding for public services has made life harder for low-income communities and other vulnerable populations. For example, state support for child care and preschool programs are more than $1 billion below their pre-recession levels. State spending on programs that help low-income seniors and people with disabilities stay in their homes have been cut from $3.9 billion in 2007-08 to $2.5 billion in 2015-16. California needs to reinvest in its communities to provide the pathways for all citizens to lead healthy lives.
A possible reversal is in the works. A leading revenue-generating contender for the 2016 ballot is Proposition 13 reform, also known as a “Split-Roll Property Tax.” California voters passed Prop. 13 in 1978 to limit the taxable value of properties and year to year increases. While the policy has provided important protections for many low-income homeowners and renters, it has also enabled corporations and wealthy commercial property owners to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes. Such tax loopholes mean that Californians lose vital funding for schools and local services like police, fire, parks, and transportation. “Make It Fair” is a growing coalition of community, faith-based, civil rights and labor groups working together to close commercial property tax loopholes so the state can use the revenue to restore critical services.
The San Francisco Foundation is working with our community partners who are part of the Make it Fair campaign to identify opportunities for restoring critical state revenue streams and creating a more equitable tax code. In anticipation of the 2016 election, it is critical for funders and practitioners to jointly identify opportunities to rebuild the pact between Californians and our government and create a more inclusive and prosperous society.
Northern California Grantmakers in collaboration with partners from The San Francisco Foundation (TSFF) and the Asset Funders Network is hosting a briefing for funders and invited community partners on the need for new public revenues in California, Prop. 13 and the Make it Fair campaign. The briefing will include a panel of TSFF's community partners who are leaders in the Make it Fair campaign, including representatives from California Budget and Policy Center, California Calls, and Mobilize the Immigrant Vote. The event will provide funders and grantees with opportunities for strategic investments to impact policy change in 2016 as well as an understanding of how community organizations can work together to access public revenues and/or support reform measures in 2016.
This blog was updated on 10/14/2015.