California previously stood upon the mountaintop for the best public schools in the nation. Today, the state struggles with growing class sizes and dwindling per-pupil spending that ranks near the bottom in the country. This decline of public education in the state stems from the unintended but cumulative consequences of thirty-plus years of policy by ballot initiative, which has choked public financing not just for education but also for most local public services. By radically constraining public taxing authority, Proposition 13 ( 1978) sits at the foundation of California's governmental dysfunction and democratic deficit. The impetus to reform the law,
once the untouchable "Third Rail" of state politics, has finally gained momentum. This project will develop policy recommendations for a new ballot initiative to address the key issues of restoring local accountability in the short-term and state budget stability in the long-term, with high priority given to the campaign necessary for success of any new reform. Recommendations will flow not just from documentary research but also from interviews conducted with political and policy experts in public education and state governance. The context and background for reforming Prop. 13 are established in the section immediately below. The problems that the ballot measure caused, the subsequent attempts to address them, and why previous reforms have failed to address the core issues are explored in the sections 3 - 4. The fifth section explains why serious reform may now be possible in the next few
years. Against this background, sections 6 - 8 draws from research and interviews to outline the most plausible reforms in both the short- and long-term.