Antonucci: California Teachers Association pledges support for Prop. 13 overhaul
Mike Antonucci | February 12, 2019
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The stage is set for what promises to be the largest and most expensive ballot initiative campaign in California history. The State Council of the California Teachers Association voted last week to support the Schools and Local Communities Funding Act, a measure scheduled for the November 2020 ballot that would create a split-roll property tax in the state.
California voters approved Proposition 13 in 1978. It limits state property taxes to 1 percent of assessed value and can increase only by the amount of inflation. Properties are not reassessed unless they are sold or improved. The initiative would lift those limits on commercial properties to current market value, to be assessed at least once every three years. Residential and agricultural land rates would remain untouched, and exceptions are carved out for some businesses.
United Teachers Los Angeles, CTA’s largest local affiliate, was an early and vocal supporter of the initiative, originally targeted for the November 2018 ballot. But CTA evidently had some qualms about the timing and so refrained. Campaign organizers decided to postpone until 2020.
The union has not yet approved any dollar amounts for the campaign but is expected to be a major backer. CTA currently has an estimated $30 million in its ballot initiative fund, which is likely to have an additional $10 million next year. Should it wish to raise more funds, the union can approve a special assessment on members.
Despite the potential size of its war chest, the union faces a steep climb. The California Business Roundtable claims a coalition of business groups will raise $100 million to defeat the initiative.
A lot can change in the next 21 months, but polling by the Public Policy Institute of California indicates challenges ahead. Forty-nine percent of likely voters support the initiative, and 43 percent oppose. Only 58 percent of Democrats think it is a good idea. Historically, most successful California initiatives begin with a large margin of support that gradually gets whittled down by Election Day.
CTA began — and abandoned — similar initiatives in 2004 and 2005 after spending millions on signature-gathering. It could happen again, but my sense is that CTA is feeling its oats and wants to take advantage of a favorable political climate in the state. Batten down the hatches.