The COVID-19 crisis has put a spotlight on how over 40 years of under-funding of public services have hurt communities across California. Despite the state, counties, cities, and school boards allocating emergency funding to meet the immediate needs of our communities, the crisis has put a strain on public services already struggling from big corporations not paying their fair share in taxes.

Proposition 15: The Schools & Communities First Funding Act will close the corporate tax loopholes, and reclaim $10-12 billion a year—funding that will build stronger communities and go toward hospitals, schools, first responders, and all the vital services we’re relying on to get us through this crisis – and beyond.

Learn what you can do to get Proposition 15 passed in November.

Corporate Property Tax Loopholes

A $10-12 billion a year loss for our schools and communities.
A $10-12 billion a year tax break for big corporations.

In 1978, a property tax ballot measure was passed to cap property taxes, so that increases on property assessments was limited to 2% each year, and property taxes were limited to 1% of the assessed value, until a home was sold.

This measure—known as Prop 13—helped homeowners keep home ownership affordable. Under Proposition 15, nothing changes here. Unlike commercial property, houses are sold frequently, which means new homeowners pay a lot more in property taxes than big corporations.

But, this measure also opened loopholes for big corporations to exploit and avoid paying their fair share in taxes. Unlike homeowners, big corporations own a lot of land and rarely, if never, sell it. This allows them to keep money that should be going toward funding our schools and communities as profit.

Corporations have pushed the tax burden onto the rest of us

Before Prop 13 was passed, the share of property taxes that fund public schools and other public services was about 55% for homeowners and 45% for corporations.

Today, the share has become lopsided with homeowners carrying much of the tax burden at 72%. While corporations are contributing a record low in taxes, they’ve been enjoying record profits at the expense of working families whose salaries and wages haven’t kept up with the increasing cost of living.

If you’ve been wondering why, in the wealthiest state in the country, we’re 47th in the country in per-pupil spending, or why we’ve been so ill-prepared with medical supplies and equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a big reason why.

The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the worst effects of the tax loopholes

During these difficult times, the tax loopholes that have led to chronic under-funding of public services are having a devastating effect on front line workers, students, and working families. 

Not enough personal protective equipment for front-line workers.

Inequitable access to internet and laptops for students.

Not enough hospital beds and ventilators, and inequitable health care access.

Proposition 15 will…

Help reclaim $10-12 billion annually for schools and local communities. Get involved.

COLLECT SIGNATURES

DONE!

Signature collection was completed and submitted on April 2. In total, the coalition collected 1.7 million signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2020 ballot. SEIU Local 99 members collected 10,153. Great job, members! Read more here.

VOTE YES

Vote “Yes” on November 3, 2020 for Schools & Communities First. If you’re not yet registered to vote, register now. If you think your registration status is outdated, check its status and re-register if you need to.

REGISTER TO VOTE
CHECK MY VOTER STATUS

TELL OTHERS

Every vote counts. Educate your friends, family, and co-workers about why we need to fix Prop 13, make big corporations pay their fair share, and how passing Schools & Communities First is the way to go.

SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE

Are you a school worker and/or a parent who can talk about the effects of under-funded schools? Do you remember a time when things were better? What’s changed? 

SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE
Learn more about Schools & Communities First

COLLECT SIGNATURES

Be part of the effort to qualify Proposition 15  for the November 3, 2020 election ballot. SEIU Local 99 needs to collect at least 10,000 signatures.

JOIN THE EFFORT
Quality Control Exercise

VOTE YES

Vote “Yes” on November 3, 2020 for Proposition 15. If you’re not yet registered to vote, register now. If you think your registration status is outdated, check its status and re-register if you need to.

REGISTER TO VOTE
CHECK MY VOTER STATUS

TELL OTHERS

Every vote counts. Educate your friends, family, and co-workers about why we need to close the loopholes, make big corporations pay their fair share, and how passing Proposition 15 is the way to go.

SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE

Are you a school worker and/or a parent who can talk about the effects of under-funded schools? Do you remember a time when things were better? What’s changed? 

SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE
Learn more about Proposition 15

How Public Education Funding Works in California

Tax Dollars Fund Education

The State of California gets revenue for funding education from different sources, with most of it coming from state funds (e.g. sales tax, income tax, Prop 98, etc.). As you can see, commercial property taxes are an unusually small portion of the overall funding. This is because of the Prop 13 loopholes, and is why California is 47th in the country in per-pupil spending.

Funds Are Distributed By the State

The California State Legislature and Governor determine what portion of the State Budget goes to education. From there, county offices of education throughout the state distribute funds to local school districts.

Schools Boards Decide How Funds Are Used Locally

At local school districts, budgets are set by the school board. The board decides how much money goes toward student services (e.g. food, transportation, equipment, supplies, staffing) and all the things needed to support student learning. Other expenditures, like employee wages and health care benefits, are contractually negotiated with employee unions.

Union Contracts Ensure Money is Used for Good Jobs & Improving Student Services

Wages, health care benefits, staffing levels and other working conditions are contractually negotiated between employee unions, like SEIU Local 99, and the employer. As a 30,000-member-strong union, we have the power to negotiate contracts that secure wage increases and improvements to the student services we provide. We also have an influential voice in local and state policymaking around education funding, and who gets elected to office. Quite simply: solidarity with your co-workers and taking part in contract bargaining and election campaigns is how we get our piece of the pie.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Proposition 15

Proposition 15 is a statewide initiative that we are working to qualify to be on the November 3, 2020 ballot in partnership with other organizations. In order to qualify, we need to collect 1.4 million signatures from registered California voters. If it qualifies and passes, it will reclaim $10-12 billion per year for California’s schools, community colleges, health clinics, and other vital local services by closing California’s loophole in corporate property taxes.

The initiative protects homeowners, renters, agricultural land, and small businesses, while reclaiming the billions of dollars in tax breaks to millionaires, billionaires and big corporations that have drained our schools and communities of funding for the last 40 years.

The $10-12 billion per year that the measure would generate would go to schools, including increased student support staff and teachers, smaller class sizes, building improvements, and more resources for the classrooms. Funds would also go to fund services in our local communities including libraries, parks, housing, fire prevention and safety, emergency services, senior centers, and health clinics.

About 40% of the $10-12 billion will go to education and the remainder will go to our local cities and counties. The education funding generated by Proposition 15 will be placed in a special state fund and will be in addition to Prop 98 funding for K-12 schools and community colleges. The rest will go to local cities, counties, and special districts based on current property tax distribution guidelines. These local governments will use the funding for local trauma centers, fire fighters and other first responders, libraries, parks, housing and other public services.

Proposition 13 was a ballot measure passed in 1978 that froze property values to the 1975 assessed value. Property tax increases were limited to no more than 2% per year as long as the property was not sold. When sold, the property was reassessed at the sales price, and then the 2% annual limit then applied to future years.

Prop 13 provided important protections for homeowners especially seniors living on fixed incomes and Proposition 15 will not change these protections. It fully exempts residential properties from reassessment.
Proposition 15 will only close the corporate tax loophole created by Prop 13 that has cost California hundreds of billions of dollars over the past 40 years, and forced massive cuts to our schools and other public services.

No. Proposition 15 does not touch homeowner property taxes and only addresses the corporate commercial property tax loophole. Proposition 15 reaffirms and strengthens protections for residential properties, protecting homeowners and renters. Homes, apartments, mobile homes, senior centers, and even hotels that have been converted into housing for the homeless will not be affected. Residential properties zoned as commercial/industrial will not see tax increases. And homes that are used for small business, such as childcare, will not see tax increases. In fact, investing in roads, schools, parks and local services will help homeowners by increasing their property values.

This initiative is about closing a corporate tax loophole in order to restore desperately needed revenue to our schools and communities. Prop 13 will remain in place for homeowners and renters – all residential property. However, right-wing groups like the Howard Jarvis Association are scaring homeowners into believing that this commonsense reform will take away their protections to ensure ultra-rich corporations can continue to get an $10-12 billion tax break every year.

No. Homes that are used for small business, such as childcare, will not see any tax increases. In fact, the Proposition 15 Act clearly exempts independent businesses with fewer than 50 employees from being reassessed.

No. Proposition 15 will not raise taxes on homes, apartments, and other residential properties. It only affects corporate commercial property.

Proposition 15 is not a new tax. It does not change the property tax rate for the average homeowner. It fixes the corporate tax loophole in Proposition 13 by assessing commercial property at fair market value.

Prices for groceries, gas, clothing and other items are determined by the market not by property taxes. In other words, prices are set by how much consumers are willing to pay. It’s also important to know that the majority of businesses in California will not be impacted by Proposition 15. Only a fraction of legacy companies that have owned their land for decades currently benefits from the corporate tax loophole. Small businesses will get tax relief and all business will benefit from investments in local communities and public safety.

The Proposition 15 Act only targets billionaires and wealthy corporations to pay their fair share to fund our schools and public services. Average homeowners and small businesses will not be affected. This measure also provides funding for both schools and other public services such as housing and health care. And, instead of creating funding with an expiration date, this proposition will provide stable, long term funding by finally fixing the broken tax system.

The California lottery raises about $1 billion a year for K-12 schools, community colleges, CSU and UC campuses. While it’s a big amount, this accounts for only 1.5% of what our public schools need because public education has been so underfunded in CA for so many years. Additionally, because no tax-payer dollars are used to fund the lottery, money from the sale of lottery tickets is also used to run the program and pay the jackpots.

Proposition 15 protects and helps small businesses by exempting small business from property tax reassessment. Small businesses are defined as independent, California-based businesses having 50 or fewer full time employees. It also creates an even playing field for small businesses in California by making sure legacy companies and out-of-state investors that have owned their land for decades and have been paying outdated property taxes pay their fair market value like everyone else.

No. Proposition 15 will lead to job creation and a stronger economy. It will lead to increased investment, better land use decisions and increased funding for schools, roads, parks and other services in local communities, creating more high-paying jobs as a result.

Proposition 15 has strict accountability measures to ensure that the state and local school districts, cities and counites report on how the money is being spent. Since this is local money, it’s up to us to hold our elected officials accountable to prioritizing our community’s needs.

Furthermore, the language in the measure ensures that money for schools will be distributed based on the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). LCFF is California’s school funding formula that directs extra funding to high need students, which includes students living in poverty, English learners, and foster youth. Because of this, the entire $10-12 billion will be given to local communities and school districts to use for important services in our neighborhoods.

Proposition 15 will help spur better land use decisions and more housing development. There are three key ways that Proposition 15 will support housing and smarter economic development:

  • Smarter land use. Under the current system, it costs absent landlords virtually nothing to hold under-developed or vacant land, driving up the cost of land and housing. Reassessing commercial property regularly will free up that land. It will also end the fiscalization of land use, where cities make land-use decisions based on what is expected to generate higher tax revenue, leading to more land being used for big box retail stores and auto malls rather than housing.
  • Spur Housing Development. Proposition 15 will free up commercial property for mixed-use development, lower land values to expand housing development, and increase revenue for affordable housing and homeless services.
  • Strengthen local communities. When neighborhood schools and other local services are improved, our communities will benefit and homeowners will see their property values increase. Regular re-assessment would incentivize absent landowners to develop their land or sell it, resulting in more land being used for housing and neighborhood services.

Massive corporations like Chevron and Shell will spend tens of millions of dollars to ensure that they get to keep their unfair tax break while our schools and communities continue to be underfunded. Opponents include the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the California Business Roundtable, two right-wing organizations that consistently advocate for wealthy corporate landowners and against working families and our communities.

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Paid for by Service Employees International Union Local 99