The California Proposition 19 Newspaper Debate

California Proposition 19

California Proposition 19


The official California  “Voter Guide” (Official Voter Information Guide) tells us CA Proposition 19 actually protects Proposition 13 property tax savings; and “closes unfair tax loopholes used by wealthy out-of-state investors” — a subtle reference to East Coast investors, of which in reality there are relatively few families like this actually coming to California to inherit property from parents, under Proposition 13, and rent out to wealthy tourists. 

This exaggerated claim has already been dis-proven, yet folks that support Prop 19  and continuously question property tax relief and Proposition 13, continue to repeat this false claim in the media — even though most CA property owners back Prop 13 and Proposition 58.

Newspapers have weighed in recently on Proposition 19: in terms of support…  

• San Mateo Daily Journal: “This would enable people in high cost areas to move more easily, opening up room for new residents to the area.”

• The San Diego Union-Tribune: “While critics see this as a gift to the wealthy elderly, the great majority of older homeowners are middle-income, not rich. Allowing them (as well as disabled homeowners and wildfire or disaster victims) to downsize without suffering a huge property tax hit is a humane policy that helps people retire with much less financial stress. It would also promote fluidity in home sales, increasing the availability of larger homes for families with children and easing the phenomenon of Proposition 13 depressing the real estate free market by trapping empty-nesters in homes bigger than they need.”

And in opposition…

• Tahoe Daily Tribune: “It’s no secret that ballot initiatives can be confusing, but Proposition 19 takes obfuscation to a whole new level.  Voters can’t be blamed if they can’t remember whether Prop. 19 is the initiative that is a massive property tax hike or the measure that actually has something good for homeowners or the initiative that has something to do with firefighting. The fact is, all three are at least somewhat true — especially the part about the big tax increase.”

• Mercury News & East Bay Times Editorial Boards: “Prop. 19 merely plugs one hole in the state’s porous property tax laws while creating another. It’s time for holistic reform that simplifies the system and makes it more equitable. This isn’t it. The longer a person had owned their current home, and already benefited from inordinately low tax bills due to Prop. 13, the greater the tax break on the new property. And those who downsize would often be competing with first-time buyers for more-affordable smaller homes. The real reform would be to abolish the tax-transfer program, not expand it.”

• The Bakersfield Californian Editorial Board: “Proposition 19 is another do-over on the ballot. Two years ago, the real estate industry spent $13 million on a similar initiative campaign to expand the program statewide and enhance the benefit for eligible homeowners. Sixty percent of voters rejected the initiative.”

• Los Angeles Times Editorial Board: “But Proposition 19 would just expand the inequities in California’s property tax system. It would grossly benefit those who were lucky enough to buy a home years ago and hold onto it as values skyrocketed. It would give them a huge tax break and greater buying power in an already expensive real estate market. It would skew tax breaks further away from people who don’t own a home or who may be struggling to buy one.”

• San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Board: “[Proposition 19] is still a flawed package, designed to rev up home sales that benefit real estate agents who could reap more in commissions. It favors one narrow segment of the tax-paying public but does nothing for the rest of the state’s home buyers. The measure shows the convoluted extremes that California’s tangled property tax system produces.”

Whichever way you see it, it’s fairly clear that Proposition 19 is a billion-dollar tax increase on families. It limits one of the best tools parents have to help their children — the right, enshrined in California’s Constitution since 1986, to pass their home and other property on without any increase in property taxes, as a Proposition 19 parent to child transfer.

On the other hand, Proposition 19 still allows residents to avoid property tax reassessment, as long as families move into inherited property inside 12 months, and only as a primary residence. 

California beneficiaries inheriting property from parents can still work with trust lenders to get a loan to a trust you can also get a trust loan to buyout co-beneficiaries, while locking in a low property tax base… You can still easily buyout co-beneficiaries with a transfer of property between siblings.  Beneficiaries can always take advantage of a property tax transfer — in other words, transfer parents’  property taxes to themselves under Prop 19, what used to be Prop 58… and keep parents property taxes after inheriting property, and inheriting property taxes,  for as long as they live in their inherited home… as a standard Proposition 19 parent to child transfer or parent to child exclusion from current property tax rates. 

Moreover, Prop 19 will in fact generate additional property tax revenue, that will supposedly be put to good use in the state of California. So, it cuts both ways.

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