Proposition 13: Impact on California Public Works

by Gary Goldstein, Asst. News Ed.; Civil Engineering--ASCE, 345 E. 47th St., New York, NY 10017,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1983, Vol. 53, Issue 9, Pg. 45-49

Document Type: Feature article


The effect of proposition 13, which was passed in California in June 1978, has hurt the ability of local governments in the state to raise funds to construct new infrastructure and maintain existing public works. Since Prop 13 cut property tax revenues the main or sole source of public works revenues, by two-thirds, local and county governments have been increasing and introducing new user and developer fees, are depending more on Federal Urban Aid Grants, doing sale-leasebacks of publicly held buildings, selling public buildings and land, demanding equity in new construction, and doing energy deals with private companies. Although no one has so far seen any devastation in California's public works, the California Assembly of Office Research sees a major infrastructure problem five to ten years down the road as 55% of the state's buildings were built from 1945 to 1955, and deferred maintenance has shortened their original design life of 40 to 50 years. Oakland in particular has been hard hit since it had a declining business base and few people selling their homes, which meant that the city couldn't assess the homes at the 1983 full market value but at the 1975 rate. With few dollars, Oakland, and the rest of the state, has cut services in nearly every public entity, with projected reconstruction of the infrastructure soaring to as much as 10 times its pre-Prop 13 level.

Subject Headings: Infrastructure | Local government | Revenues | Highway and road design | Building design | State government | Taxation | Government buildings | California | United States

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