A measure that could be approved for the November ballot this week would raise property taxes by repealing parts of Prop. 13 and replacing them with what’s called a split-roll tax. Agriculture is supposed to be exempt.

But Anthony Russo, a partner at Russo McGarty and Associates, explained on Wednesday to members of the California Association of Winegrape Growers that a range of agricultural properties would still be included. Russo and the California Business Roundtable have been leading the opposition to the measure.

Farmland would be exempt, but not vineyards and orchards, or food-processing facilities and barns, Russo explained. Yet how other property would be treated is unclear. Eric Miethke of Capitol Law and Policy Inc., who is also part of the coalition, pointed to vacant land not currently being farmed as one example of the measure's ambiguity. 

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If a winegrape varietal “spun off more income because it’s more desirable,” he said, “I would imagine that would be reflected in the assessed value and also result in higher taxes.”

The coalition is confident it will defeat the measure at the ballot box by reminding voters this would an enormous tax hike that could cost businesses statewide up to $12 billion, according to estimates by the Legislative Analyst's Office.