The New York Times, in a Sunday article setting up Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget announcement today, took a walk into the past to look at a crucial tax and spending decision he made during his first time through as governor:

“… Voters passed Proposition 13, drastically slashing local property taxes and constraining lawmakers from raising any other taxes. Mr. Brown first fought the proposition but then executed it with gusto and sent billions of dollars from the state to school districts and counties to help offset the lost revenues.

That may be a decision that Mr. Brown has come to regret, as his career has come full circle and taken him back to Sacramento 33 years later to confront yet another budget crisis.

As much as Proposition 13 signaled a national revolt against taxes that reverberates to this day, its actual legacy in California — not just the proposition itself, but the way Mr. Brown and the Legislature responded to it — has emerged as a major obstacle to the new governor as he confronts what is probably the worst fiscal crisis in this state’s history.

The measure cut off a major source of revenue by capping property taxes at 1 percent of valuation and required a two-thirds vote by the Legislature to raise taxes. And because it cut property tax collections by local government by nearly two-thirds, the state, initially at Mr. Brown’s behest, took on more and more costly responsibility for financing schools, welfare and other services that were once the responsibilities of local governments.

New York Times: Tax Cuts From ’70s Confront Brown Again


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at

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