On August 14, Schools and Communities First, a powerful statewide coalition of nearly 300 endorsing community organizations, labor unions, business leaders, philanthropic foundations and elected officials, announced the submission of over 860,000 signatures to the 58 County Registrars to qualify the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act for the November 2020 ballot. The coalition’s deadline to qualify for November 2020 is August 20th and 585,407 verified signatures are required. This will be the first commercial property tax reform initiative to qualify for the ballot in 40 years since Prop 13 passed in 1978.
Simultaneous press conferences were held in 5 different cities across the state, including Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno, and San Bernardino. Over the past 5 months, over 5,000 volunteers and 90 organizations collected more than 860,000 signatures. Hundreds of members of the coalition participated in the events across the state, which concluded with celebratory rallies after the formal press conference ended.
“Over the last 40 years, California has lost hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue, leading to chronic underfunding of schools, services, and local communities along with poor local land use decisions, and a spiraling housing crisis,” said Helen Hutchison, President of the League of Women Voters of California. ”Schools and Communities First is the first structural and equitable tax reform in four decades. It will reclaim over $11 billion robbed every year from schools and local communities, shaping a new legacy of investment in the people of California.”
“California now boasts the 5th largest economy in the world, and yet has the highest rates of poverty, one of the lowest rates of per-pupil spending for our schools, and a housing crisis where teachers, nurses, and security guards can’t afford housing near their jobs. Investing in the future – schools, sustainable neighborhoods, and shared prosperity – is critical to our growing economy,” said Josh Pechthalt, President of California Federation of Teachers. “For too long California has treated children as second-class citizens while prioritizing the wealthiest corporations. This initiative will restore funding to K-12 schools and community colleges, ensuring all children in California have access to a world-class education.”
August 14th is 6 days before the deadline to submit and the first day of school for many districts across the state. By qualifying this year for the November 2020 ballot, the measure will be placed at the top of the 2020 ballot and will catalyze a conversation over the next two years about the need to tackle Prop 13’s commercial property inequities, long considered the untouchable “third rail” of California’s politics.
“This is a defining moment for California,” said Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation. “Closing the commercial property tax loopholes is important to our state and to our Bay Area region. It is
our opportunity to affect positive change by restoring more than $11 billion a year to our schools and vital community services without raising taxes on homeowners, renters, and small businesses.”
The case for split roll reform has been bolstered recently with the publishing of a peer-reviewed study by Dr. Chris Benner of UC Santa Cruz, “Market Value”. Dr. Benner’s research found that passing a split roll reform measure in California would strengthen California’s economy, debunking a faulty 2012 Pepperdine study that claims Prop 13 reform would lead to job loss.
If passed, the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act would close the millionaire and billionaire corporate tax loophole in Prop 13 by requiring all commercial and industrial properties to be assessed at fair market value, putting California on par with how the vast majority of the country assesses commercial property. The measure will reclaim $11 billion every year, roughly half allocated for K-12 schools and community colleges, and the remaining allocated to counties and cities according to current property tax guidelines. The measure maintains Prop 13’s current protections for homeowners, renters and agriculture, and includes small business tax relief and oversight and accountability.
The Schools and Communities First coalition unites every region, demographic and sector of California – from north to south, urban and rural, workers and business leaders, seniors and young people, teachers and students, homeowners and renters, and long-time residents and newcomers. Over the next 2 years, Schools and Communities First will continue to expand the coalition, engage in public education to strengthen the path the win, and raise the needed resources through the existing broad bench of major funders and thousands of small donors. The aim will be to catalyze a conversation in California over the next two years about the need for Prop 13 reform, and build to significantly increase turnout among new and unlikely voters in 2020.
“Today we are taking a huge step toward building a strong and prosperous California, one where everyone can get ahead,” said Andrea Guerrero, Executive Director of Alliance San Diego. “The time is now to build power from the ground up to ensure that California puts people, kids, and communities first – not corporate interests. By reclaiming over $11 billion robbed every year from schools and local communities — including $1 billion that will directly benefit San Diego County — we will shape a new legacy of investing in the people of California.”