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State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond joined proponents of Proposition 15 on Thursday to urge voters to approve the proposition, which would increase property taxes on some commercial and industrial properties.
Thurmond argued that the proposition, which could generate as much as $11.5 billion in annual revenue according to the independent California Budget and Policy Center, is critical to helping the state spend more on education.
California ranks 39th among all 50 states in per pupil spending, Thurmond said.
“It’s money for California students,” Thurmond said. “If you care about California students, you’re a ‘yes’ vote on Prop. 15.”
Proposition 15 would raise property taxes on commercial and industrial properties with more than $3 million in holdings by removing those properties from the protection of 1978’s Proposition 13, which required properties to be taxed on their purchase price rather than their current value.
The proposition would allocate roughly 60 percent of its revenue from the increase in property taxes to local government services like fire departments and 40 percent to the state’s K-12 public schools and community colleges.
Residential properties and agricultural land would be exempt from the tax increase, regardless of whether their value exceeds $3 million.
According to Dolores Huerta, the co-founder of the United Farm Workers and supporter of Proposition 15, 92 percent of the tax revenue collected from passing the proposition will come from 10 percent of large corporations.
Huerta and Thurmond both argued the proposition amounts to requiring large companies to pay their “fair share” of property taxes to support local governments and the state’s education budget.
“If we have the fifth-largest economy in the world in California, then it is shameless that our children do not have the kind of quality education that they should have,” Huerta said. “So we have to say that these mega corporations are really tax cheaters.”
Brian Rice, the president of the California Professional Firefighters union, said the proposition’s funding for local governments will be critical when the state eventually emerges from the novel coronavirus pandemic to avoid local budget contractions.
Even pre-pandemic, local fire departments never recovered to their staffing levels prior to the 2007-09 Great Recession, according to Rice.
“We’ve made a few small gains, but we’ve had municipalities generally don’t go back to the staffing levels that they were because they’re reprioritizing differently or the money’s just not there,” Rice said.
A poll released Monday by the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found that 49 percent of the state’s likely voters support Proposition 15 while 42 percent are not in favor and 9 percent are still undecided.
“This hits everything that we believe in, in California … this is about people or profits,” Rice said. “Be about people.”