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Voters Reject ‘Split Roll’ Property Tax Measure

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A 'Yes on 15' sign rests on a podium at a rally for supporters of Proposition 15 at Santee High School in Historic South Central Los Angeles. (Kyle Stokes/KPCC/LAist)
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Proposition 15 — the statewide ballot measure that would have increased many businesses’ property taxes — was rejected by California voters, according to the Associated Press.

In Tuesday’s update to the vote count, the No on Prop 15 campaign has earned nearly 52% of the votes. Ballots are still being counted around the state, but opposition to the measure has remained constant since Election Day.

The so-called "split roll" measure aimed to roll back parts of California’s landmark Prop 13 that apply to commercial and industrial properties — but not the portions of that 1978 ballot measure that keep residential property taxes low.

At stake with Prop 15 was as much as $11.5 billion in new annual revenues, with between $2 billion and $5 billion dedicated to increase K-12 education and community college funding.

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Those amounts are fairly modest compared to what the state already spends on education. But education advocates say it would correct a longstanding problem: California has long lagged behind other big states in its level of spending on K-12 education.

The coronavirus recession has also illustrated the stakes: California faces a massive revenue shortfall. Many schools are bracing for cuts. Revenue would also have been shared with local governments. Advocates saw Prop 15 as one way to fill budget gaps.

The biggest beneficiaries of Prop 13’s commercial property tax limits have been legacy businesses such as IBM, Disney and Chevron. But opponents of this year’s ballot measure have contended that the burden of Prop 15 would be shouldered by smaller businesses that rent commercial space, not by larger property owners.

KPCC reporter David Wagner contributed to this story.

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