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Lawmakers Look to Lower Voter Threshold on Transportation Projects

With Measure J recently failing with 66 percent of voter support, lawmakers look to lower the voter threshold for transportation projects to 55 percent.

Many have speculated as to how a Democratic supermajority in both houses of the state Legislature will affect taxpayers. 

One action recently called into question was a proposed constitutional amendment introduced by Sen. Carol Liu (D-Pasadena) that would lower the amount of votes needed to pass measures that fund transportation projects.

It currently takes two-thirds of voters to approve new taxes, raise existing taxes or extend the time a tax is collected, which is why Measure J failed recently with some 66 percent of voters backing it. Proposition 13 set the two-thirds precedent in 1978 and Liu would like to bring that threshold down to 55 percent.

What do you think? Should the California Constitution be amended to lower the voter threshold from two thirds to 55 percent? Should Proposition 13 be altered to remove tax protections for commercial property owners? 

The Long Beach Press-Telegram looked at Governor Jerry Brown's proposed budget and suggested that overspending could force legislators to look to the longstanding Proposition 13 for extra tax money. The referendum was designed to protect property owners from increased property taxes and required two-thirds of voters to impose special taxes (like those for local transportation projects). Commercial property owners were included in that provision and enjoy the same protections.

One possibility for altering Proposition 13 could include a "split roll," which would leave the protections for homeowners in place and would either allow for the reassessment of commercial property value more frequently or raise the rate of assessment, political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe told KCET.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa supported both Measure J and the removal of Prop 13 commercial property protections.            

Those against a Proposition 13 split roll say that increasing taxes levied on commercial property would drive business out of the state.  

Brenda Barnes January 27, 2013 at 12:55 AM
Prop 13 needs to be revisited. Not piecemeal like this. The commercial exemption is wrong, but changing it needs to be very carefully done to not drive business out. Nonetheless, we should not be held hostage by business claims raising their taxes will drive them away. We are the 8th largest economy on the planet. We can charge businesses for the privilege of using our infrastructure.
Brenda Barnes January 27, 2013 at 01:01 AM
All so true, Malibu Magoo.But do you think it is fair that businesses use our infrastructure and under Prop 13 don't pay for it?
Brenda Barnes January 27, 2013 at 01:07 AM
Right, James. Just this week Metro voted to go ahead with plans for expansion even though they do not have the money b/c Measure J failed. Expo coming to Santa Monica duplicates the Subway-to-the-Sea planned to open three years later, and now the CA Supreme Court has taken the WLA Smart Rail challenge that may stop Expo completely, but still they keep building beyond WLA. Exempting transportation from Prop 13 will just allow more and worse Metro and other transportation agency mismanagement. Transportation should no more be exempt from Prop 13 than anything else is. Nonetheless, Prop 13's commercial exceptions should be revisited, and as long as Prop 13 is a sacred cow, that won't happen and we'll get these piecemeal wrongheaded solutions instead.
Dawn February 10, 2013 at 07:52 PM
Wait until they try to pass Measure J again. Everyone should work extra hard to defeat it. The current Measure R goes out to 2035 - so they've already spent the money out to 2035. Don't bankrupt our future any further.
Brenda Barnes February 10, 2013 at 08:01 PM
Whatever is the latest fad--right now it's transit--politicians use that to get slush funds. In Santa Monica they do projects like $55 million for two parks in front of City Hall taking up less than two blocks! They should get NO more money until they spend what they have well. Judging from current and past performances, that will not be until they are all replaced. Every Council meeting the consent calendar has at least $300,000 for cost overruns on previously approved projects. The incompetence if not graft of all the people put in with money in elections is transparent. That is all that is transparent about their back-room dealing and giving away our country to developers and other corporations. We must take back control of our country while we still have anything worth having.

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