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June 1978 - California Voters Pass Proposition 13

Howard Jarvis, chief author of Prop. 13, speaking to crowd after California Proposition 13 victory, 1978
Howard Jarvis, chief author of Prop. 13, speaking to crowd after California Proposition 13 victory, 1978 | Photo: L.A. Times/UCLA Library Digital Collections/Creative Commons License

On June 6, 1978, California voters passed Proposition 13, a ballot initiative that amended the state constitution to lower property taxes in the state and freeze values to 1975 levels. It also called for a two-thirds majority in state legislature to increase future taxes, and a two-thirds majority in local elections to implement special taxes.

The measure, spearheaded by businessman and lobbyist Howard Jarvis, limited property taxes across the state to one percent of the property's assessed value, which can only increase at a rate of two percent annually, unless the property has changed its ownership, or new construction has occurred.

Proposition 13 was approved by 62.6 percent of voters in the June 1978 primary election, with 34 percent in opposition. The measure won in all but two of California's 58 counties (the rural Yolo and Kern counties).

Prop 13 has yielded lower taxes for Californians, saving taxpayers, and primarily homeowners, over $528 billion. Critics of the measure have argued that Prop 13 has resulted in less property turnover and higher housing costs, as well as some hidden effects. They have also argued that Prop 13 has altered the tax structure in California, resulting in lower revenues for municipal services, libraries, and lower funding to the state's public education system.

Through three amendments were passed by voters in the years following to alter minor elements of Proposition 13, it remains a politically untouchable subject among lawmakers in California, with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association still remaining a powerful political lobby.

A 2011 "SoCal Connected" segment examined the modern-day repercussions of Proposition 13:


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