California bill eyes revenue boost from business property sales

SAN FRANCISCO Thu Dec 6, 2012 4:08pm EST

SAN FRANCISCO Dec 6 (Reuters) - A Democratic lawmaker in California said on Thursday he aims to change rules allowing companies to hold down taxes on property sales in an indirect challenge to state's landmark Proposition 13.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's announcement follows a move by state Senator Mark Leno, who introduced a bill on Monday to lower the majority required in local elections to raise taxes on property parcels to fund schools to 55 percent from two-thirds, another part of Proposition 13.

Democrats won two-thirds of the legislature's seats in last month's election and analysts expect them to use their supermajority to advance legislation aimed at increasing revenue, including bills aimed at Proposition 13.

Democrats have complained Proposition 13's constraints on tax increases have weakened California's finances since voters approved the measure in 1978. Republicans have defended Proposition 13 and blamed the state's fiscal troubles on spending.

"This year's election, both at the federal and state level, shows that people recognize we have to improve revenue to maintain needed services. Reform of Prop. 13 is one possibility," Ammiano said in a statement.

California voters last month also backed Democratic Governor Jerry Brown's tax measure, which raises the state's sales tax and increases personal income tax rates on the wealthy to help stabilize the state's finances.

Ammiano would not directly target Proposition 13 because voters would need to approve changes by the legislature to the measure.

He instead wants to change rules created by the legislature that allow businesses to alter their ownership structures to be able to sell property without triggering reassessments at current values. That usually holds down revenue from taxes on the sales.

By contrast, Leno's legislation requires approval by both houses of the legislature and Brown's signature to be put to a statewide vote.

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