Monday, April 13, 2009

A different take on the tax revolt ignited by Proposition 13

OF INTEREST: A fascinating book review about the tax revolt spurred by the passage of Proposition 13 in California in 1978 challenges the established view that the movement was strictly conservative.
These tax revolters were not driven by a belief in small government or a rejection of the welfare state. Indeed, they mobilized to defend their stake in that state.

Eventually, the California tax revolt took on a different cast, taking its leadership from conservative activists who saw the movement as a challenge to big government. Howard Jarvis and the champions of Proposition 13 did not simply seek the preservation of an informal tax preference, but the hobbling of state government. And when the initiative passed, conservatives across the nation used it to reshape tax revolts in their own communities.

Martin's book reminds us, however, that California's tax revolt was not some sort of conservative cri de coeur, at least at the start. Much of the support for antitax ballot measures arose from less-than-conservative inclinations among the electorate. To underscore this point, Martin describes the policy alternatives -- tax rate graduation, for instance, or property classification -- that might have protected homeowners from rising tax bills without hobbling state and local government.
The book reviewed is Isaac William Martin's The Permanent Tax Revolt.

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