Taxed

California Farm Bureau Fears Improvements Like Barns, and Even Trees, Will Be Taxed Under Prop. 15

The most contentious issue California voters face on Nov. 3 is not the Presidential election—polls show voters are firmly decided. Rather, it is a tax measure, Proposition 15, which has heavy hitters for it and against it.

Proposition 15 would amend the California constitution to change the way commercial and industrial real estate is taxed, basing it on current market value. Presently, all property, residential and commercial, is taxed based on its last purchase price.

The measure, sometimes called the “split-roll initiative,” excludes commercial agricultural land and commercial properties worth less than $3 million from being reassessed at current market value. The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s office estimates that Proposition 15 could bring between $6.5 billion to $11.5 billion per year when it is fully implemented in 2025.

Sixty percent of the revenues from Proposition 15 (after it pays the state and local tax assessors for the costs of implementing the measure) would go to cities, counties and special districts, 40 percent to schools and community colleges. The total for each would depend on the amount of new taxes paid by commercial properties in each community.

Supporters include the Democratic Party; Green Party; Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, (who are ahead of President Trump by about 30 points in the California polls); Gov. Gavin Newsom; the California Teachers Association (a major donor) and most labor unions. 

Opponents include the California Farm Bureau Federation; the California Republican Party; the California Chamber of Commerce (also the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Black Chamber of Commerce, American Indian Chamber of Commerce and Asian-Pacific Chamber of Commerce); the California Small Business Association; the California State Conference of the NAACP and several veterans’ organizations.

Lenny Goldberg, long-time executive director of the California Tax Reform Association and Proposition 15’s main architect,

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