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BB AMMIANO 027.jpgDemocratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano said Thursday he will try to rewrite state tax laws that he believes allow businesses to avoid higher taxes when commercial property changes hands.

Proposition 13, the landmark 1978 California tax change, limits annual tax increases on both commercial and residential properties at 2 percent each year after a sale takes place. When property is sold, the new owner typically pays property taxes based on the new market value.

But Ammiano, D-San Francisco, believes businesses are structuring property transactions specifically to avoid triggering reassessment at the sales price. The technique involves ensuring that the new ownership consists of partners, not one of which owns more than a 50 percent stake.

Ammiano is not pursuing a voter amendment that would change Proposition 13 in the state constitution. Instead, he wants to write new laws that prevent businesses from avoiding reassessment in such a manner.

He has proposed similar ideas before, but they have never reached the governor's desk. Democrats now have a supermajority in both houses, though Ammiano's past bills on the subject struggled to win even support from Democratic majorities. It is unknown how much more money the change would generate for the state.

Two Senate Democrats last week proposed Proposition 13 changes that would make it easier for school districts and libraries to increase parcel taxes.

A new Public Policy Institute of California poll released last night shows that 58 percent of likely California voters support removing Proposition 13 tax limits on commercial property but preserving them for residential taxpayers. The Ammiano proposal would not go as far as that, though it is in the same vein.

PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, at his desk in the Assembly chambers in 2009. The Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer


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