June 6 marks the 30th anniversary of Prop 13, the biggest tax revolt in CA history

Howard Jarvis

Thirty years ago “Howard Jarvis led the biggest tax revolt in California history.” Prop 13 has become a household word around this country with other states copying this tax limitation achievement.

Prop 13 was approved by the voters of California on June 6th 1978. It was initiated to place a limit on state and local spending. We surely need to follow that concept today. Some called Howard Jarvis a “crusty curmudgeon” a distinction that he surely accepted. The Internet describes a curmudgeon as someone who has “the temerity to comment on the human condition without apology. They not only refuse to applaud mediocrity, they howl it down with morose glee. Their versions of the truth unsettle us, and we hold it against them, even though they soften it with humor.”

The following information on Howard Jarvis comes from Wikipedia:

Howard Jarvis (September 22, 1903 – August 11, 1986) was an American politician.

Jarvis was born in Magna, Utah, and died in Los Angeles, California. In Utah he had some political involvement working with his father’s campaigns and his own. His father was a state supreme court judge and, unlike Jarvis, a member of the Democratic Party. Howard Jarvis was active in the Republican Party and also ran small town newspapers. Although raised Mormon he smoked cigars and drank vodka as an adult. He moved to California in the 1930s due to a suggestion by Earl Warren.

In California he went on to lead the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, he spearheaded Proposition 13, the property tax-cutting initiative in California in 1978 which slashed property taxes by fifty-seven percent and initiated a national tax revolt. Jarvis was a Republican primary candidate for the U.S. Senate in California in 1962, but the nomination and the election went to the liberal Republican Thomas Kuchel.

In 1980 he had a cameo appearance in the film Airplane!, playing an incredibly patient taxi passenger whose metered fare in an unattended taxi rises to over $113. This was an “inside joke” that people outside California were probably unaware of, since Jarvis, the champion of fiscal responsibility, spent the entire movie sitting in an empty cab, with the meter running, waiting for the driver to return.

In the Time Magazine coverage on the passage of Prop 13 it reads: “4.2 million voters supported the measure, overwhelming by nearly 2 to 1 the 2.3 million who refused to go along. It was as though millions of the state’s taxpayers had thrown open their windows like the fed-up characters in the movie Network and shouted in thunderous unison: “I’m mad as hell—and I’m not going to take it any more!”

The significance is easily seen by reading the CA Constitution amendment text:

SECTION 1. (a) The maximum amount of any ad valorem tax on real property shall not exceed One percent (1%) of the full cash value of such property. The one percent (1%) tax to be collected by the counties and apportioned according to law to the districts within the counties.

There are many volunteers who worked with Howard in this revolution. How many of you know the name Paul Gann?

Congratulations to all those who persevered to see this “grass roots” effort become a reality.

About Larry Gilbert