Governor Gavin Newsom has endorsed Proposition 15 which will appear on the ballot come November. Proposition 15 is a split-roll tax initiative that would reassess and raise taxes on commercial and industrial property and doesn’t exclude agricultural facilities. Late last week, Newsom announced his support for the bill, and the agriculture industry immediately showed their disappointment.
California Farm Bureau Federation President Jamie Johansson released a statement that highlighted the ways the bill would hurt the state’s rural communities if passed. “Unfortunately, Gov. Newsom has sided with public employee unions over the hardworking folks in California’s rural and agricultural communities by endorsing Proposition 15. Without a doubt, Proposition 15 will raise taxes on California farmers and ranchers, at a time when they are already suffering from the effects of the pandemic. The measure would increase taxes on barns, dairies, wineries, processing plants, vineyards, orchards and other agricultural improvements,” Johansson said.
And, when the cost of production goes up it reduces access to affordable and locally grown food. Johansson says that at a time when folks are already struggling to pay their bills amid a pandemic and natural disasters they shouldn’t have to worry about the price on their grocery store receipts.
“That will harm our farming and ranching community, but the impacts go far beyond that, by further reducing access to affordable, healthy, locally grown food. Californians’ grocery bills will increase, adding to the worries of people who already struggle to pay their bills. ” He added, “As farms, ranches and all businesses struggle during the pandemic, and with millions of Californians unemployed or underemployed, this is a particularly poor time to make people pay more for basic necessities such as milk, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Western Growers President & CEO Dave Puglia also announced his concern about the endorsement. He believes if the bill passes it could move California based businesses out of state. “California farms and businesses are withering under a hostile and worsening legal and regulatory climate that has been compounded by the COVID-19 economic shutdowns. It is therefore very regrettable that Governor Newsom endorsed a ballot initiative that promises to hike the property taxes of business and farms by $11.5 billion.” Puglia added, “We need relief from the massive weight of California regulatory and tax policies that are increasingly motivating business owners to escape to friendlier states and countries. Prop. 15, if passed, will add even more fuel to the motivation to quit California. As a business owner himself, the Governor certainly understands this and should have started a badly needed realignment of the state’s policies toward business enterprises by opposing Prop 15.”
Several agricultural and non-agricultural organizations both statewide and regional have joined forces to form the No on Prop 15 campaign coalition. Members include CFBF and WG, California Cattlemen’s Association, California Chamber of Commerce, California Citrus Mutual, California Fresh Fruit Association, Western United Dairies and more. In addition, many elected officials statewide have also linked in opposition.
Puglia says Newsom’s thumbs up won’t stop groups from advocating against the bill, though. “Despite this setback, we are confident that the voices of the people who drive California’s economy will persuade the voters to reject Prop 15,” Puglia said.