Proposal to Increase Property Tax Bills for California Businesses Qualifies for 2020 Ballot

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Californians could face a major decision two years from now about whether to increase property taxes for businesses after a ballot initiative qualified for the November 2020 ballot on Monday.

The initiative would tax commercial and industrial properties at their market values, resulting in the higher tax bills. Currently, all properties are taxed based on a value tied to when they were purchased, a system put in place under Proposition 13 in 1978. The initiative would leave those tax restrictions in place for homeowners.

A coalition of education and social justice advocates are behind the 2020 initiative, noting that the effort could raise as much as $10 billion annually in new tax revenue, according to an analysis by the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Advocates have long discussed levying higher property taxes on businesses — an effort known as split roll — but no initiative had ever qualified to go before voters previously. The measure is sure to face intense opposition from business groups worried about the hit to their bottom lines.

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