By Joe Mathews
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Additional info for California crackup: how reform broke the Golden State and how we can fix it
Her husband, Glen, a Hollywood union stagehand, made about $24,000 a year, well above the 35 36 / Building and Breaking California Los Angeles median of $14,000. But by 1976 the property tax on their three-bedroom home had reached $2,400, almost as much as the annual mortgage, and about one dollar for every seven dollars of Glen Noorda’s take-home pay. 2 No one ever intended for property taxes on homes to go so high. It happened inadvertently, the result of one of California’s spasms of reform, enacted in the Progressive faith that rules and experts were a better way to run California than politics and politicians’ discretion.
6 The committee recommended that the state ﬁgure out how to pay for itself sometime later. Maybe the federal government would help. This was a recipe for disaster—and an early demonstration of the “something for nothing” political culture that would be a constant burden to California. The constitution had provided no clear limits on government spending, on legislative salaries, or on the sale of state property. Governors quickly took to abusing their unlimited pardoning power. Not ﬁve years into its history as a state, California’s government was broke.
But this comprehensive approach foundered in 1965. County tax assessors fought to keep their power, and Governor Edmund G. (Pat) Brown didn’t want to kick off his reelection campaign by raising state taxes to make up the lost revenue to schools and other local governments if the property tax were reduced and reformed. ) Instead, in 1966 the legislature and Brown enacted a narrower bill, AB 80. It required all property to be assessed at a standard rate of 25 percent of market value. Gone was the county assessors’ discretion.
California crackup: how reform broke the Golden State and how we can fix it by Joe Mathews