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Lawmakers Look to Lower Voter Threshold on Transportation Projects

With Measure J recently failing with 66 percent of voter support, lawmakers look to lower the voter threshold for transportation projects to 55 percent.

Many have speculated as to how a Democratic supermajority in both houses of the state Legislature will affect taxpayers. 

One action recently called into question was a proposed constitutional amendment introduced by Sen. Carol Liu (D-Pasadena) that would lower the amount of votes needed to pass measures that fund transportation projects.

It currently takes two-thirds of voters to approve new taxes, raise existing taxes or extend the time a tax is collected, which is why Measure J failed recently with some 66 percent of voters backing it. Proposition 13 set the two-thirds precedent in 1978 and Liu would like to bring that threshold down to 55 percent.

What do you think? Should the California Constitution be amended to lower the voter threshold from two thirds to 55 percent? Should Proposition 13 be altered to remove tax protections for commercial property owners? 

The Long Beach Press-Telegram looked at Governor Jerry Brown's proposed budget and suggested that overspending could force legislators to look to the longstanding Proposition 13 for extra tax money. The referendum was designed to protect property owners from increased property taxes and required two-thirds of voters to impose special taxes (like those for local transportation projects). Commercial property owners were included in that provision and enjoy the same protections.

One possibility for altering Proposition 13 could include a "split roll," which would leave the protections for homeowners in place and would either allow for the reassessment of commercial property value more frequently or raise the rate of assessment, political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe told KCET.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa supported both Measure J and the removal of Prop 13 commercial property protections.            

Those against a Proposition 13 split roll say that increasing taxes levied on commercial property would drive business out of the state.  

Saltwater January 17, 2013 at 03:30 PM
Lower voter threshold- that's politicianese for moving the goal-post closer so that they can get what they want after losing, They want to change the state constitution so they can build the train from Bakersfield to LA.
Robby January 17, 2013 at 05:12 PM
LOL. It's just sooooo transparent. Maybe they'll try holding their breath or refusing to eat their dinner next. Thank goodness they haven't dispensed with voting altogether yet.
Paul Glasgall January 17, 2013 at 07:28 PM
That will be next step sort of like executive orders
David V. January 17, 2013 at 09:49 PM
Of course lowering the voter threshold is the right thing to do. It's called majority rule. Democracy requires it.
Robert Parry January 17, 2013 at 10:17 PM
Of course, because we're not taxed enough yet in this state. We were 4th on this list: http://blog.sfgate.com/pender/2012/10/23/californians-pay-4th-highest-state-and-local-tax-burden-report-says/ Which came out before Prop 30!
Tom Adams January 18, 2013 at 12:39 AM
David, we don't live in a Democracy, we live in a Republic. There is a difference. With majority rule the minority gets run over. Our form of government is there to protect us from majority rule, other wise the one with the most hired guns wins.
LocalGuy January 18, 2013 at 02:08 AM
Thats already happening they already got voter approval and its from san diego to sacramento/san francisco and they are just starting by building there because it is more logical rather than starting in the middle of downtown la.
David V. January 18, 2013 at 03:37 AM
Tom, that's funny. I thought Republics are run by majority rule too.
David V. January 18, 2013 at 03:41 AM
Oh, and Yes! Prop 13 should no longer protect market actors -- i.e., commercial property owners, from market forces. Commercial property does not deserve Prop 13's protection.
Robert Parry January 18, 2013 at 04:18 AM
Yes. Let's soak more from businesses and drive up their costs even higher. We've got enough employers in California.
David R January 18, 2013 at 04:38 AM
there are a lot of commercial property owners that own small strip malls with businesses that are struggling to get by and if you increase their property tax they will pass that increase along to the already struggling business owners. Way to go CA, keep voting for the tax and spenders without holding them accountable for pissing away all the taxes they currently collect. Oh I forgot, it for the children. fools.
Carol Elliott January 18, 2013 at 05:54 PM
Absolutely not - Sacramento has done enough damage to this State - why would we want to give them any more power. They stay awake at night wondering how to fleece taxpayers while wasting the money they get. California got the government it deserved....
michele Zack January 18, 2013 at 06:35 PM
Right now, we are suffering from the bullying and dictatorship of the minority! Just a third of voters can stop any forward action that requires money. That's unfair! A simple majority, or in this case a fat majority of 55%, should be enough to let us decide on civic improvments such as transportation. It is very hard to get 66% to agree on anything in this world, and even when we do, we end coming short by a few votes because we actually need more than 66% to get anything done.
David V. January 18, 2013 at 10:02 PM
Umm...sorry... but lowering the voting threshold to 55% would give a supermajority of the people -- not Sacramento -- more power to make their own choices. You're not saying that you do not trust your fellow citizens to decide what kinds of taxes they wish to impose, are you?
Brentwood Resident # 49 January 18, 2013 at 10:46 PM
Michele that is exactly the point , only the really good ideas are the ones that are passed because of the requirement of 2/3 of the vote. Lowering that threshold will simply allow many more marginal laws to be passed.
Robert Parry January 18, 2013 at 11:07 PM
Actually, I think that's the idea. A simple majority should not be able to take money out of everybody's pockets. It's bad enough that the San Gabriel Valley has been made to pay for transportation improvements in central and West LA for years, with hardly a nickel spent here. Imagine what that would look like if barely half of the population could raise our taxes for their personal benefit. If you're going to take money out of somebody's pocket against their will, it ought to be pretty close to everybody who thinks it's a good idea.
LocalGuy January 19, 2013 at 12:12 AM
I don't think that half a cent, not half a percent, but half a cent, every time you pay for everything in LA county is a big price to pay for public transit and its not taking almost any money out of your pocket
David V. January 19, 2013 at 12:38 AM
Great idea! Let's impose a 2/3 requirement for any legislation to pass!. Let's put all existing taxes up to a 2/3 requirement too! That would surely make our society work more smoothly and more fairly!
Robert Parry January 19, 2013 at 01:07 AM
Localguy: Everything I've read says half-cent per dollar (not per purchase). Not even sure how you'd assess/collect half a penny.
LocalGuy January 19, 2013 at 01:35 AM
From all of the things that I have been reading it seems like 1/2 a cent per purchase but if you have some sources because I might be wrong.
Malibu Magoo January 19, 2013 at 01:45 AM
You're all assuming a lot about our State's voters -- like they actually understand the measures as written by the special interests, or where the money is really going. I would bet all the money in my pocket (not much) that a lower thresh hole would make most bills shoe-ins for approval. All the sponsors have to do is mention kids, firemen or police. As we all know, bills attached to those entities are usually sponsored by the respective unions and just mean more tax dollars going into the financial black hole our state has become. And you can't blame THAT on Republicans. They haven't been relevant in this state for 25 years. We're circling the bowl, and our reps are only interested in getting re-elected. You can't run in this state without union support. If you try, they'll literally run someone against you in the primary. Dem or Rep. Someone (Truman, I think) said "if a man comes to Washington poor and leaves rich, he's stealing." I feel the same about Sacramento. Our reps do not leave their 'public service' jobs in bad financial shape.
Carol Elliott January 19, 2013 at 05:06 AM
For the clarification of david v below. When i say Sacramento i am talking about the representatives that my fellow citizens-not me- voted in and no i do not trust them to make a good decision. I have watched this state deteriorate over the last 20 years. Voters where duped by prop 30.
David V. January 19, 2013 at 10:45 PM
Carol, voters were "duped" because they dared to disagree with you and vote for Prop 30? A little charity toward those you disagree with would go a long way.
James Stoker January 22, 2013 at 04:12 PM
What I don't understand are the motives for trying to earmark more money for transportation projects. Isn't this what got our state into the financial mess it is in? Every time we earmark state money we make it more difficult to cut state spending and more likely that taxes will go up. So remind me, how does it help to earmark more money for transportation projects? Have you seen the current crop of transportation projects in Los Angeles county? It seems to me that Metro and Caltrans already have more money than they know what to do with...
Brenda Barnes January 27, 2013 at 12:55 AM
Prop 13 needs to be revisited. Not piecemeal like this. The commercial exemption is wrong, but changing it needs to be very carefully done to not drive business out. Nonetheless, we should not be held hostage by business claims raising their taxes will drive them away. We are the 8th largest economy on the planet. We can charge businesses for the privilege of using our infrastructure.
Brenda Barnes January 27, 2013 at 01:01 AM
All so true, Malibu Magoo.But do you think it is fair that businesses use our infrastructure and under Prop 13 don't pay for it?
Brenda Barnes January 27, 2013 at 01:07 AM
Right, James. Just this week Metro voted to go ahead with plans for expansion even though they do not have the money b/c Measure J failed. Expo coming to Santa Monica duplicates the Subway-to-the-Sea planned to open three years later, and now the CA Supreme Court has taken the WLA Smart Rail challenge that may stop Expo completely, but still they keep building beyond WLA. Exempting transportation from Prop 13 will just allow more and worse Metro and other transportation agency mismanagement. Transportation should no more be exempt from Prop 13 than anything else is. Nonetheless, Prop 13's commercial exceptions should be revisited, and as long as Prop 13 is a sacred cow, that won't happen and we'll get these piecemeal wrongheaded solutions instead.
Dawn February 10, 2013 at 07:52 PM
Wait until they try to pass Measure J again. Everyone should work extra hard to defeat it. The current Measure R goes out to 2035 - so they've already spent the money out to 2035. Don't bankrupt our future any further.
Brenda Barnes February 10, 2013 at 08:01 PM
Whatever is the latest fad--right now it's transit--politicians use that to get slush funds. In Santa Monica they do projects like $55 million for two parks in front of City Hall taking up less than two blocks! They should get NO more money until they spend what they have well. Judging from current and past performances, that will not be until they are all replaced. Every Council meeting the consent calendar has at least $300,000 for cost overruns on previously approved projects. The incompetence if not graft of all the people put in with money in elections is transparent. That is all that is transparent about their back-room dealing and giving away our country to developers and other corporations. We must take back control of our country while we still have anything worth having.

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