I was heartened to hear the defiant tone and strong language Gov. Jerry Brown used in his State of the State address last month. He made it perfectly clear that we will defend our immigrant populations and do everything we can to protect the health care that millions of us now rely on.
Democratic members of the legislature have also spoken out in staunch opposition to President Donald Trump’s policies. Unfortunately, what I have not heard are policy solutions regarding how we will make up for the loss of billions of dollars in federal revenue if funding to sanctuary cities is cut and the Affordable Care Act is abolished.
Brown and others should be declaring that, in order to defend California values and be a model for the rest of the country, it’s imperative we generate our own revenue, and the best way to do that is to reform Proposition 13.
For almost 40 years Prop. 13 has been considered the “third rail” of California politics, and few legislators have dared to touch it. Sadly, those of us who have tried to change aspects of the law have not found support from the Democratic leadership. When I was in the Legislature, I introduced legislation to close a corporate loophole in Prop. 13, but party leadership did not allow it to come up for a vote.
Two years ago, senators Loni Hancock and Holly Mitchell authored their own reform and, again, Senate leadership quietly killed the bill. In the era of Trump, blocking commonsense revenue-generating legislation has to stop.
The Hancock-Mitchell bill would have established regular reassessment of nonresidential commercial property while keeping Prop. 13 protections for homeowners and apartments. This would generate $9 billion a year for our schools and public services. You read that right: $9 billion every year! Under this reform, San Francisco alone would receive nearly $700 million more in annual revenue. If a similar bill is introduced again this year, the Democratic leadership owes it to California to embrace it rather than stand in its way.
In dark blue California, it’s easy for elected officials to send tweets condemning Trump’s executive orders or show up at a protest. We should expect more. We should demand that our elected officials and candidates for governor champion real financial solutions to insulate ourselves from a spiteful, demagogic president. It’s time for our Democratic politicians to demonstrate real political courage and take on our state’s sacred cow.
Trump’s antics seemingly get worse by the day, and I’m proud that California is at the forefront of the resistance. However, to be successful in our resistance, we must be able to showcase an alternate vision for America’s future. We can only do that by setting ourselves up to be able to adequately fund our schools and public services. The best way to do that is to reform Prop. 13.
Tom Ammiano served San Francisco in the State Assembly, representing District 17 from 2008 to 2014.