California ballot measure Proposition 15 — the split-roll tax proposal meant to create higher taxes on commercial and industrial properties — was lagging by a fairly narrow margin as of mid-day Wednesday.

With 72 percent of votes counted, 51.7 percent voted against Prop 15 while 48.3 percent voted in favor.

Proponents of the measure believe state and local governments would get an estimated $11.5 billion annually by taxing land holders by 2025. Approximately 40 percent of the revenue would be earmarked for K-12 schools and community colleges while 60 percent would go to counties, cities and separate districts.

The ballot measure intends to subvert the rules governing property taxes that were established in 1978 by Proposition 13, which set the annual levy on property values at 1 percent, regardless of whether a property has residential or commercial designation. The measure would split off commercial property assessments from residential, allowing commercial tax assessments to rise.

Opponents of Prop 15 maintain that smaller businesses, the vast majority of California’s companies, would be hurt by the tax hike while owners of big commercial properties would pass on the burden to tenants.

“The proponents, as usual too often in California, tried to trick our community into believing that Proposition 13, the only restraint on the excessive taxation that has made California the most expensive place to live in the country, was a ‘loophole’ which rewards wealthy corporations,” said Sandy Sigal, the chief executive of NewMark Merrill Properties Inc. in Woodland Hills, which specializes in shopping centers.

“The vast majority of property owners who would have seen their property taxes increase by many multiples are small businesses themselves, or individuals who have spent their life investing in real estate, not the always demonized ‘wealthy building owners who don’t pay their share,’ ” Sigal continued.

“The state of California needs to take a step away from continuing to shake down the business community which employs so many and contributes to the fabric of community and do the hard work of finding out why the amount of spending that is put into education and other necessary social programs are so poorly and inefficiently spent,” Sigal concluded.

Valley Industry and Commerce Association President Stuart Waldman told the Business Journal that Prop 15 would not be good for many commercial property owners and tenants, describing the measure as “another bad policy.”  

“Proposition 15 would increase the cost of living in California by removing property tax protections and increasing taxes for businesses,” Waldman said. “At a time when COVID-19 has negatively impacted the business community, Prop 15 would cripple already struggling businesses up and down California.”