I just got back from Massachusetts and had a great time. I also read the recent Annie E. Casey Foundation report called Kids Count. In the exhaustive report they rate the quality of life for kids in each state involving Economic Well Being , Education ,Health and Family and Community. Massachusetts came in 2nd nationally ,second to mini state New Hampshire. California on the other hand came in 41st.
If Massachusetts is doing so well ,maybe we can learn a little from them be visiting the state. Education tours would make sense because they are ranked number one in the country in education. Whats also interesting is how they raise the resources to fund education.In a word they have split role. where commercial and industrial property is assessed at 2 and 2.5 times that of residential property. We don't even really have a flat tax rate system in California where residential and commercial properties are on the same level. Commercial property owner are able to "game"the system and often pay a rate that's below the residential rate. Lenny Goldberg of Cal Tax Reform has been working for decades to fix the problem. Even Goldberg's solution isn't quite split role , its a sort of imitation split role, akin to imitation crab meat if you will. He just proposes that commercial property be reassessed every few years,not daring to propose that commercial property be assest at a real split role rate of 2 to 2.5 times residential property which is how its done in other industrial states.
Although there has been a good arguement for split role , they can't even get legisation out of committee in Sacramento. Tom Ammiano ,assemblyman from San Francisco quips "the corporations are laughing at us." We are a very rich state not to have enough money to fund education. Along with being the 8th richest economy in the world we also win 40 percent of the country's venture capital investments and generate 50 percent of the country's IPOs (initial public offerings.) Go almost anywhere in California and the commercial property is not cheap,not by a long shot. And its not cheap because properties and corporations are generating a lot of money.
What makes the problem such a glaring example of the injustice of the California property tax problem is how well Massachusetts schools are going compared to us but the kicker is they also pay much lower sales taxes 6.25 percent compared to 10 percent in San Leandro. Their sales tax is even lower than 6.25 percent in real economic terms because they don't pay a sales tax on clothes.Attention California shoppers!
So my proposal is simple , start a tour of the Bay State , go see their schools , look at their tax roles , visit their numerous factory outlets . The money you save on factory outlet bargains and NO sales tax on clothes will almost make the trip pay for itself.
We have a poor education system because we let corporations short change us and we make up the state revenue be nickel and dimming the working people and the poor.Massachusetts , though far from perfect has a much better education system and generate much more revenue from fairly taxing corporations and not sticking it to the poor and workers.
Most politicians in California would rather resign from office than raise some cane about commercial property tax injustice. Mums the word on this issue among school board members and I'm sure the parcel tax campaigns leaders won't touch this issue with a ten foot pole.But just think of all the people who would get excited about a tour to Massachusetts , if only for the great clothes and sales tax deal!
Lenny Goldberg has been working on this issue for decades and thinks the key is identifying tax weasels locally. Maybe telling people they can have a better education with split role and not pay sales taxes on clothes might be an even better hook. Maybe Wilma Chan a former Massachusetts resident could also play a role. I of course would make a great tour guide.