By David Miles
Generations of LGBTQ people struggled to advance our community to a point where we have more equality, more fairness, than ever before. I’m proud that in California legacies of that struggle include our freedom to live and work without discrimination, to hold elected office, and to marry the person we love. These legacies come with the moral obligation to look beyond ourselves and fight for fairness for all Californians.
And right now, schools and communities in California are struggling.
The schools we depend on to educate and nurture our youth are desperately underfunded, impeding the ability of teachers and counselors to prepare students for a better tomorrow. Municipalities are struggling with shrinking budgets, forcing cuts in essential services like providing basic healthcare for people in need. First responders like fire departments are confronted with an increasing number of natural disasters and struggling to keep us safe.
It doesn’t need to be this way. This election season, we must remember our legacy of fairness, and come together across race and place, to vote yes on Proposition 15.
Prop 15 closes a loophole created in a 1978 ballot measure that enabled large corporations with commercial and industrial properties to skip out on paying their fair share. This includes Disneyland and SeaWorld, which take advantage of these loopholes while the communities around them crumble. They happily charge us 2020 ticket prices while they comfortably pay 1978 property taxes.
That’s not fair.
Closer to home, the San Diego Country Club – which has a deep history of exclusion and discrimination against LGBTQ, Jewish, Black, Latino, Asian, and immigrant people – is another example of an institution that has taken advantage of this loophole. Their vast land holdings are assessed at pennies per square foot while new homeowners in the same area pay nearly 50 times as much in property taxes. Why should we homeowners effectively subsidize the gross profits of exclusive clubs and the largest corporate landholders?
It’s time for all of these wealthy corporations to pay their fair share.
Through Prop 15, every school, every community college and every city in San Diego County would gain by having a handful of big corporations pay their fair share. Prop 15 would generate $12 billion for California schools and communities. This includes about $700 million for every school and community in San Diego County. Area K-12 schools would gain $300 million and community colleges close to $45 million for teachers, books, and counselors to help ensure our gay, lesbian and transgender students get the support they need to grow into the leaders of tomorrow. San Diego cities would gain $125 million and the County would gain $156 million for things we need, like emergency response, youth programs, foster care programs, hate crime prosecutions, health clinics and street repairs. And millions more would go to fund our public hospitals, our wildfire response and our water capture, treatment, and delivery systems.
Prop 15 is reform that makes sense for all San Diegans. It explicitly preserves the current property tax law for homeowners. And it protects small businesses by exempting commercial properties valued at $3 million or less, making sure that only the biggest businesses, like the country clubs, pay. It also exempts all small businesses that are based in homes. According to a USC study, 90% of all business property is valued under $3 million. That means Prop 15 will only affect the top 10% of commercial properties. What’s more, Prop 15 cuts small business taxes to help them recover and invest in their future. Under Prop 15, small businesses will thrive on a level playing field, allowing them to compete fairly with big business.
The opposition to Prop 15, funded by large corporations, is spreading lies and using scare tactics to intimidate us from taking this once in a generation opportunity to support our schools and communities. We should never be afraid to do what’s right for San Diego, especially when it’s something that’s good for everyone.
Prop 15 maintains the full protections currently existing for homeowners. In fact, the proposition explicitly protects all homes, condos, apartments and other residential properties from any increase in taxes under this initiative . This is the fair thing to do. Right now commercial and industrial property owners who have long avoided paying their fair share account for less than one-quarter of property taxes, while residential property owners pay three-quarters. Prop 15 would rebalance the scales so that corporations pay their share for the public schools, services, and infrastructure that we all depend on.
Our community has come a long way and has made great strides in fair treatment. We must extend that legacy to all members of the community, regardless of race or place, and vote yes on Prop 15.
David Miles is a board member of Alliance San Diego Mobilization Fund.