‘The First Angry Man’ Tells Rise of the Tax Revolt, the Legacy of Howard Jarvis

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California voters will consider a voting measure in November that would amend Proposition 13, a 1978 measure that keeps property taxes based on the estimated value of properties at purchase and caps the amount that taxes can increase. This saved long-term homeowners from steadily increasing tax bills, but reduced government revenue. This year’s Proposition 15 would change the measure, increasing business property taxes based on the current assessed value of their property, likely much higher than in 1978. Homes, businesses whose California property is worth less than $ 3 million and farm land is exempt.

The documentary “The First Angry Man” looks back at when Proposition 13 was adopted and examines the social and political context of the time. Filmmakers Camille Servan-Schreiber and Jason Andrew Cohn argue that Howard Jarvis, the public face of Proposition 13, helped usher in an era of nationwide tax revolt and mistrust of the government that persists over 40 years later.

“Back then, most people were pretty happy with the government and pretty happy paying taxes. And so, what happened with the prop. 13, and what happened with Jarvis, did it grab a moment when some people were quite unhappy again. “

– Camille Servan Schreiber

“In politics, it’s much easier to lower people’s taxes than to tell them they have to pay more taxes. So it had the kind of long-term effect of really crippling the legislature in terms of the ability to generate revenue when it needed it. “

– Jason Andrew Cohn

A segment of our radio and podcast show, “Civic. Listen daily at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on 102.5 FM in San Francisco, and subscribe on Apple, Google, Spotify or Stapler.


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