Guest commentary: Prop. 15 offers investment in schools and communities while protecting small businesses

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California is the largest state economy in the nation and the fifth-largest economy in the world. But did you know that California ranks 37th in the nation for per-pupil spending in K-12 education as a share of the state economy and is last in the ratio of students to teachers, counselors and librarians?

Why? The answer is simple: We have prioritized the well-being of a handful of big corporations over the education of children.

Fortunately, on Nov. 3, voters can right that wrong.

Proposition 15 is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to close a corporate tax loophole that has deprived schools and communities in San Diego and across California of much-needed investment. That’s why I hope we can come together, no matter who we are or where we’re from, to vote yes on Prop. 15.

California’s schools are funded in large part by property taxes, but wealthy multinational corporations have been skipping out on paying their fair share. Huge corporations and local country clubs are paying 1978-level taxes, thanks to a tax loophole they’re exploiting, paying pennies on the dollar and leaving homeowners and small businesses to fund the public institutions and services we all rely on. When wealthy corporations don’t pay their fair share, they’re not only hurting our children and our families, they are exploiting an unfair advantage that makes it hard for small businesses to compete.

Prop. 15 is a chance for us to right these wrongs.

First and foremost, it is fair and balanced reform that will generate an additional $12 billion in funds to be reinvested into California’s schools, essential services and infrastructure. Locally, Prop. 15 would generate some $700 million for cities in San Diego County to fund emergency response, youth programs and street repair; for local K-12 schools for teachers, books, counselors and science equipment; and for special districts for water delivery, fire protection and health care.

A rising tide lifts all boats, so when we invest in our schools and communities, we all win. Prop. 15 also invests in community colleges, which are crucial to training the workforce in a changing world, which is key to keeping California’s economy strong. Every school, every community college and every city in San Diego County would gain by having a handful of big corporations pay their fair share.

When we invest boldly in our communities, our local small businesses thrive, too. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and a proven pathway to build income, independence and economic security, especially for women, people of color, immigrants, young adults and others. Prop. 15 helps small businesses by investing in livable communities — quality schools, health clinics, clean water, safe streets, sanitation services, public transportation and emergency services — and an inclusive economy in which everyone has the opportunity to get ahead.

Prop. 15 also cuts small-business taxes and levels the playing field, requiring the biggest businesses, with properties valued at over $3 million, to pay their fair share of property taxes. According to USC, only 10 percent of business properties are valued over that amount and are the ones that would pay. What’s more is that small businesses that rent space from big businesses will go unaffected, as rents are determined by location and market conditions, not property taxes.

The wealthy corporations that oppose Prop. 15 have resorted to lies to scare voters away, but they are only looking out for themselves, not our small businesses, families and communities. Don’t fall for it. We should never be afraid to invest boldly in the future of our communities and level the playing field for our small businesses.

This election season, Californians have an opportunity to balance a tax system that has burdened homeowners and renters and resulted in chronic underfunding of our schools. By coming together and investing boldly in the future of our children and communities, we will make California better for everyone, regardless of the color of their skin or where they come from. That’s why I’m urging you today to vote yes on Prop. 15.

Samuel Tsoi is assistant director of the 21st Century China Center at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy & Strategy and vice president of the board for Alliance San Diego.

For the other side, read here:

Proposition 15 is an $11.5 billion property tax increase that will appear before California voters during one of the most uncertain economic climates in memory. Even as hope exists for brighter days in San Diego County, Prop. 15 could undo that hard-earned progress for countless businesses.