How a California Ballot Initiative Changed the State's Tax Law Forever

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Like most Americans in the 1970s, Californian residents were suffering under the combined effects of inflation and a nationwide gas-shortage, in addition to their already rising property taxes.

Howard Jarvis, a retired businessman in the state, spearheaded what would become a full-fledged taxpayer revolt under Proposition 13, known officially as the "People's Initiative to Limit Property Taxation." Under California's constitution, a proposed law or constitutional amendment can be made if it receives enough signatures. 

Proposition 13 passed with 65 percent of the votes, and radically cut property taxes by up to 60 percent. But while the financial burden for Californian homeowners was alleviated, revenue for the state's budget was devastated. Nearly 40 years later, this problem persists.

Joe Rubin, a producer with our partners at the Retro Report documentary team, explains how Jarvis' populist message was able to galvanize Californian voters, and what solution there might be to address the impact Proposition 13 has had.