Published by: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: October 31, 1980
Proposition 13 is only the most famous of a series of tax-relief programs that have popped up around the country, and reporter Kuttner has tracked down the story on most of them. Still, the California case remains archetypal, and Kuttner recounts the series of events that led from corrupt county assessors who underassessed some properties for a fee while overburdening other businesses and homeowners; to organized business efforts to obtain equity in assessment procedures between business and homes; to the skyrocketing assessments of homeowners that followed; to Howard Jarvis, a devotee of right-wing causes who found himself at the head of the tax revolt. Propositions to limit property taxes had been around for a while, but the Jarvis-Gann Initiative--Proposition 13--was the one that came at the right time. Kuttner observes that the desire for tax relief was so strong that few paid attention to the potential consequences of the measure. It not only brought a drop in public services, Kuttner argues; it also resulted in a strengthening of the central government at the expense of the now-impoverished localities, and a ""leveling down"" of public education--both of which hit back at the middle-class constituency that supported the measure. But with their anti-government ideology and their awareness that the poor will be the main victims of service cuts, conservatives are still in the vanguard; and Kuttner bemoans the fact that--through groups like the National Tax Limitation Committee and the National Taxpayers Union--they have set the terms for rethinking property tax structures. Kuttner weaves his way through the groups and the states that are at the forefront of this movement, but his conclusion that a New Deal constituency no longer exists is thrown into doubt by the recent Democratic Convention's platform fight. Still, despite some hasty conclusions centered on ""limited pies"" and efficient government, Kuttner's review is comprehensive and timely.