Law 536 - Proposition 13: Law, History, and Politics

Kirk J. Stark

Kirk J. Stark

Barrall Family Professor of Tax Law and Policy
B.S.F.S. Georgetown, 1989
J.D. Yale, 1994
UCLA Law faculty since 1996
Course Description:

“Proposition 13”—the famed “tax revolt” initiative championed by Howard Jarvis and approved by California voters in June 1978—added Article XIIIA to the California Constitution. By its terms, the primary effect of Prop 13 was to impose new constitutional limits on local property taxes, limiting the base and reducing the rate. In the forty plus years since the measure became law, however, Prop 13 has had a much broader effect. It has inspired numerous copycat measures in other states, transformed the state and local public sector, triggered several additional initiatives in California, and spawned a nationwide tax-cutting fervor that has defined U.S. tax politics ever since. The aim of this seminar is to explore the origins and operation of Proposition 13 as well as its numerous and far-reaching effects. The course will begin with an examination of the measure itself, as well as the enabling legislation enacted shortly after it was passed. Topics to be covered include the political origins of Prop 13, its effect on local government finance (especially school finance), how Prop 13 benefits some property owners while disadvantaging others, state and federal constitutional challenges, and proposals for reform (including the “split roll” measure slated to appear on the November 2020 ballot). The course is, at bottom, a detailed investigation of California history and politics over the past half century, as played out through pitched ongoing battles over how to fund public goods.

Course Learning Outcomes:

By the conclusion of the course, students should have an advanced understanding of Proposition 13, how it works, how it has changed over time, how taxpayers use its provisions to minimize their tax liability, what effects Prop 13 has had on the state/local public sector, and how the measure might be reformed.

Course Information:
​Faculty Term Course Section ​Schedule ​Units Requisite Satisfies SAW
Kirk Stark 19F 536 SEM 1 W 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM 3.0 No Per instructor's discretion