On behalf of the California Teachers Association, lawyers this week submitted to the Attorney General's Office two versions of a split roll property tax initiative. The sponsors want their measure entitled "The High Quality Classrooms Act." The attorney general is responsible for determining the ballot title and summary.
Depending on which version they go with, there would be an additional ad valorem property tax rate of .30 percent or .50 percent of acquisition value imposed on commercial real property (except residential rentals). This would be in addition to the 1 percent rate in current law, plus levies to pay for bonded indebtedness. The 1.5 percent rate could increase taxes on commercial property by $4 billion to $5 billion a year.
The California Teachers Association, along with Hollywood's Rob Reiner, sought to qualify a somewhat similar initiative for the March 2004 primary but withdrew after Cal-Tax discovered a drafting flaw that could result in higher residential property taxes. That initiative was to finance a statewide preschool program.
The San Diego Union-Tribune (January 14) reported that Robin Johansen of San Leandro, partner in the Remcho, Johansen & Purcell firm, refused to identify the client for whom the initiatives were filed. The newspaper reported that a spokesperson for the California Teachers Association did not respond to a question about whether the union was sponsoring the measures. However, Ben Austin, a senior advisor to actor/director Reiner, told the Union-Tribune: "Rob supports the CTA's commitment to the public education system. But this particular ballot initiative is a CTA initiative. It's not a CTA-Reiner initiative."
Mr. Austin, reported the Union-Tribune, also said Mr. Reiner is continuing to work on a coalition to support an initiative in 2006 that would pay for preschool classes, but he said a source of revenue has not been identified.
This is one of a raft of spending lobby-sponsored initiatives being prepared for circulation by the teacher and public employee union interests in the event Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger calls a special election later this year. If they qualify with enough signatures, and there is no special election, they would be on the next regularly scheduled statewide election in June 2006.
The spending lobby also is proposing a constitutional amendment that purports to limit spending, but actually serves to protect education funding. One version would encase in the state Constitution the Sinclair Paint decision that has enabled the Legislature to pass taxes and call them fees, evading the two-thirds vote requirement in the Senate and Assembly.
The Remcho firm also filed (January 13) an initiative it calls the Corporate Tax Accountability Act, which would allow the Legislature to eliminate tax preference laws by majority votes.
Here are links to these initiatives:
Caltaxletter January 14, 2005
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