Karen Chapple to talk on ties between state tax policy, environmental goals

Planning professor Karen Chapple will present a white paper early next year on research into links between California’s landmark climate change goals and tax incentives, as part of the UC Center Sacramento’s focus on discovering and sharing knowledge to solve pressing public problems.

Chapple was selected in a competition among faculty and researchers throughout the UC system for the UC Center’s annual Bacon Public Lectureship, which promotes evidence-based public policy and creative thinking for the public good.

In a proposal for the lecture, Chapple stressed the importance of determining the best balance of city and state revenue sources to support California’s bold climate change goals.

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UC Berkeley professor of city and regional planning Karen Chapple is exploring links between California’s tax structure and its ability to achieve environmental goals. (Photo courtesy of Greenlivingpedia.org.)

“For instance,” she wrote, “if the tax system contributes to inefficient land use patterns, then vehicle miles traveled – and the costs of business – may increase and the spatial inequities may be exacerbated.”

Chapple said that despite decades of tinkering with tax regulations and creating incentives to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy use, California has not explored how its tax system impacts the achievement of the state’s targeted greenhouse-gas emission reductions.

She said she will examine California’s sales, property, use, personal and corporate income tax connections to the Golden State’s patterns of urbanization, along with a likely relationship between the tax structure and how many miles people drive.

Chapple noted that local reliance on sales taxes results in a preference for big-box retail stores, which have been shown to contribute to people driving more – while high-end office development, if concentrated in certain areas, can generate more net property tax revenue than residential development and cut the miles driven. Meanwhile, income taxes can encourage home ownership, which can be more attainable in non-urban areas, adding to the number of miles people drive.

A specialist in housing, community and economic development as well as regional planning, Chapple will include potential tax policy options to complement and support California’s climate change goals when she presents her work, which she hopes will lay out new research parameters.

“These might include new forms of equalization, Proposition 13 reform, or even new approaches such as land-value taxes that penalize those whose land is unproductive, encouraging development of unused sites,” she wrote in her Bacon Lectureship application.

The lecture will take place Feb. 24 at the UC Center, 1130 K St., Suite LL22, Sacramento.  Directions to the UC Center are available online.