SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — A record 22 million Californians registered to vote ahead of the November general election. While the allure of choosing the next occupant of the White House no doubt spurred many of them to the ballot box, they also had a list of initiatives to decide ranging from whether the state should go to a split-roll property tax scheme to ending the money bail system.
The bid to end cash bail failed, but here’s a look at how some of the other propositions are faring — even as the vote count continues:
Ignoring pleas for budget relief from California’s cash-strapped cities and Governor Gavin Newsom, voters are on the verge of rejecting a bid to amend the state’s landmark tax code and put the squeeze on commercial landlords.
With over 75% of the estimated total vote counted, 52% have voted no on Proposition 15 — the so-called “split-roll” bid. The proponents’ dreams of raising up to $11.5 billion in new tax revenues for schools and cities is on the ropes, as the measure faces a 426,000 vote-deficit as of Friday.
If the result holds, it would be further proof of the popularity and resiliency of a voter-approved tax scheme that is credited with preventing runaway tax bills for property owners in the Golden State for decades.
Seeking to make taxes more predictable and stable, 63% of Californians voted in 1978 to amend the state constitution in order to slow tax increases for both commercial and residential property. Considered by many as the “third rail” of California politics, the system caps annual tax increase on both commercial and residential properties.
The tax code has remained largely unchanged despite the fact it’s long been a target of some of the state’s most influential labor unions. Former lawmakers and governors — even during previous economic downturns — have hardly dared to challenge the tax code, wary of its reputation.
But with the state facing a record $54 billion Covid-induced deficit, proponents have been trying to convince voters they could unearth a giant new revenue stream by raising taxes on commercial properties valued above $3 million. The supporters amassed a deep and influential bench featuring Newsom, former Vice President Joe Biden, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and many of the state’s largest labor unions.
Leading the fight against the tax reform are a collection of business and agricultural groups, as well as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — named after the author of the original ballot measure. They cast Proposition 15 as the “largest property tax increase in California history” and claimed it would send commercial rents and the cost of consumer goods skyrocketing.
In the run up to the election, the sides combined to raise a staggering $139 million on Proposition 15.
To pull off a comeback in the coming days or potentially weeks, the proponents are hoping to glean more support from many of the state’s coastal counties in the final batches of votes. The proposition has had success thus far in counties like Los Angeles (53-47%), San Francisco (71-29%), Santa Clara (56-44%), Alameda (66-34%) and Marin (63-37%).
Proponents can find a glimmer of hope in the fact that according to the Secretary of State’s latest estimates, there are still nearly 1 million outstanding ballots in Los Angeles and Alameda alone. Statewide, there are an estimated 4.5 million ballots left to be counted as of Thursday evening.
Support fades inland however as voters are rejecting the split-roll scheme in counties like Fresno (40-60%), Tulare (64-36%) Riverside (40-60%) and Sacramento (53-47%). Making the comeback more difficult is the fact the measure is on course for defeat in the major coastal counties of San Diego (44-56%) and Orange (39-61%).