David Brooks has a column in today's New York Times claiming that the property tax limits imposed by Proposition 13 are responsible for ruining California:
Another assault on California progressivism came from the right. Conservatives refused to acknowledge the public sector's role in creating the state's prosperity. With Proposition 13 and other measures that cut taxes, they cut off revenue and pushed through structural reforms, making it hard for future administrations to raise funds. Many on the right became unwilling to think creatively about using government to promote prosperity.
The result is a state in crisis. ... State growth has lagged behind national growth. Unemployment is at 12.4 percent statewide and at catastrophic levels in the Central Valley. More people are leaving California for Oklahoma and Texas than came here during the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s.
This is just unmoored from reality. Proposition 13 was enacted in 1978. Between 1980 and 2009 California's population grew to 37 million from 24 million, growth of 54%. Over the same period, the overall U.S. population grew to 305 million from 227 million, growth of 34%. California's GDP was $324 billion in 1980 and $1.8 trillion in 2008, an increase of about 5.55 times. Over the same period, U.S. GDP grew to $14.4 trillion from $2.8 trillion, an increase of about 5.14 times. Now one can argue about adjustments for inflation or about the methods for measuring state GDP. Certainly, California has problems. But the statistics don't bear out Mr. Brooks's claim that the trouble is Proposition 13. In fact California's population and economy were growing a lot faster in the period after the implementation of Proposition 13 than were the populations and economies in plenty of other states in which taxes were not subject to such limits.