One of the many distinguishing features of freedom-loving den of Reaganites California is that the voters, in their infinite wisdom, chose long ago to cap property taxes by law—one of those special kinds of laws that very specifically helps people who are already wealthy. Congratulations, wise self-disinterested voters of California! The rich are very happy that law exists right about now.
Oh, hmm, huh, it's a WSJ story about how America's cities are generally financially fucked and desperate and teetering on the edge of hopelessness for the foreseeable future. But what about The Golden State??
While many municipalities nationwide have offset property-tax declines by raising tax rates, California's 1978 law dubbed Proposition 13 caps property taxes at about 1% of a home's value and forbids major tax increases unless a home is sold or rebuilt, though it permits taxes to fall if a home's value drops.
Thank god that law passed a generation ago—otherwise, California's wealthiest homeowners could be at risk of having their property taxes raised to the point that the state could, in a sort of worst case/ apocalypse scenario, fall off the list of the states with America's lowest property taxes. Thanks to Prop 13, California only has to worry about stuff like its poorest citizens living in squalor due to a lack of government funds for affordable housing, instead. Whew.
This is a great illustration of that old adage, "Voters today will always have perfect foresight into economic conditions a generation hence, so why not put pass as many broad, inflexible laws as possible?"
[WSJ. Photo of glorious low-tax California community: AP]