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June 6 marked 40 years since California voters passed the People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation, more commonly known as Proposition 13. It was the last anniversary for the measure while Jerry Brown is governor of California, so taxpayers might benefit from a look back across the decades.

The son of former Gov. “Pat” Brown, Jerry Brown won the 1974 governor’s race by only 2.9 percentage points. During his first term, California homeowners fared poorly.

Property - Taxes - Percent - Backers - Proposition

Property taxes increased 120 percent between 1974 and 1978, and as the backers of Proposition 13 recall, “property taxes were out of control. People were losing their homes because they could not pay their property taxes, yet government did nothing to help them.”

Proposition 13 did not create any new state agencies, mandated no new state spending, and required no new hires in state government. Contrary to what some politicians believe, the measure did not cut taxes and only limited the way taxes could be raised.

Proposition - Increases - Percent - Year - Property

Proposition 13 limited increases to no more than 2 percent per year if the property was not sold, and reassessed sold property at one percent of the sale price.

Jerry Brown called the measure a “fraud” and a “rip-off” and predicted a veritable Armageddon if the measure should pass. The people took a different view.

Percent - California - Voters - People - Initiative

A full 65 percent of California voters approved the People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation. By any definition, that is a landslide.

As Brown’s biographer Chuck McFadden recalled, “Instantly Jerry Brown performed one of the most dazzling flip-flops in the history of American politics” and proclaimed himself a “born-again tax cutter.”

Brown - Champion - Tax - Limitation - President

Brown had not been a champion of tax limitation in 1976, when he first ran for president. Neither did he play a born-again tax cutter in 1980, when he again sought the nation’s highest office.

In his 1992 presidential run, Brown...
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