Essays

This page links to a series of essays I have written over the years regarding political economy. Perhaps one of the most important is one of the earliest: a critical analysis of Article 13 of the California Constitution, which was added by referendum as Proposition 13 in 1977. This radical reduction in property tax revenue had an immediate effect on public education in the state, reducing per-student expenditures from the highest in the country to near the lowest. As of 2010, California ranks 42nd out of 50 states in per-student expenditures on education, just behind Florida and just ahead of North Dakota (National Education Association 2011, p.55). Many policy analysts despise Proposition 13 and wish for its repeal; yet it remains extremely popular among landowners in California.

My analysis yielded surprising results: I actually recommend retaining the one provision that Californians recognize as part of Prop 13: the 1% cap on property tax. What I propose removing or amending is the fine print that deviates from this simple principle of a 1% tax. The paper is old; I wrote it in 1994. But the fundamental problem persists: California needs to cover the costs of the services it provides. The state did badly even during boom times in the late 1990s. Now, not only has education been eviscerated, but Oakland had to lay off 11% of its police force in 2010 and reduce citizen responses to violent crimes only. The state is under a Supreme Court injunction because our prisons are overcrowded to ‘cruel and inhumane’ levels. Vallejo has gone bankrupt, and so on. Can this be fixed? A revision to Article 13–that keeps the 1% cap–would be a very healthy start. Read it here.