Is California really a low property tax state?

To hear progressives tell it, California’s property tax is way too low and needs to be increased to fund the critical needs of schools and local governments.  But the notion that Proposition 13 – enacted 40 years ago – has somehow “starved” local governments is nothing more than urban myth.  In virtually every year since 1978, the growth in property tax revenue has exceeded the combined growth in inflation and population.

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While the consistent growth in property tax revenue is indisputable, that has not deterred Proposition 13’s detractors from arguing that, relative to other states, property owners in California aren’t paying their “fair share.”  Eschewing for the moment what constitutes “fair,” a part of the debate involves whether California is a high or low property tax state. And it is here that the saying “lies, damn lies and statistics” comes into full play. The reality is that there are many ways to measure tax burden and most can be manipulated to support some desired narrative.

Those who argue that California’s property tax burden is too high might be tempted to point out that California collects far more property taxes than any other state.  That is true, but it is also intellectually dishonest.  Our size and population is what generates the tax revenue and aggregate dollars collected simply do not reflect a fair measure of tax burden.

One measure, certainly more accurate than total dollars collected, is per capita property tax collections.  This is simply aggregate property tax revenue collected divided by population – a relatively easy calculation. Using this metric, it is clear that California is not a low property tax state.  The authoritative Tax Foundation ranks California 17th highest among the fifty states, which puts us almost in the top third in burden.

To read the entire column, please click here.


  1. “…California aren’t paying their “fair share.”” What a crock of crap. Under Prop 13, the beginning annual property tax when you purchase a home is 1% of the purchase price plus additions approved by local voters. The value of your property cannot be raised by more than 2% a year unless you have made capital improvements. Prop 13 was passed because the politicians were raising property taxes to the point many, particularly seniors, could no longer afford to stay in their home because of the property taxes. The average starting tax rate is between 1 1/2% and 2%. Prop 13 was passed by a large majority because the politicians at all levels of government are insatiable when it comes to spending other peoples money. My wife and I recently fled California after living there for nearly 60 years. We bought our home in 1998 for $60,000 and our starting property taxes were about $700 a year. When we sold the home last year, our property taxes had grown to almost $1,000 a year. The cost of living in California was one of the main reasons for leaving. The couple that bought our home paid $225,000 so their starting property tax is about $3,375 a year. As far as I’m concerned, that is too much. Of course, the politicians want to argue that I wasn’t “paying my fair share”. BS to that.

  2. What would you expect from “Tax’n Jackson” – Newsom – and the rest of the radical Socialist/Communist called Democrat.

    Most of the “Blue Dog Democrats” I know are ashamed to admit they are Democrats or are now Declined to State….now there is a twist. Are you listening RINO’s and DS Rep’s?

  3. Now that the Government is literally burning us out of house and home…the building permits $$$ will add up and the new building ain’t be under Prop 13.

  4. When a Person turns 75, that person does not ever again pay a property tax on the property he is and has been living in. this is from GAVIN NEWSOM.

    • What is your source for this. I did a thorough search and found nothing about this. Maybe it is something he is proposing, but I found nothing on that as well.

    • Sounds like the beginning of a new Euthanasia Program to rid CA of “Fossil Citizens”.

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