The impact of this month's much-ballyhooed Proposition 13 vote in California may prove less than meets the eye.
Although analysts have few doubts that the new "taxpayer revolt" accurately reflects voter frustration over taxes and government services, many experienced onlookers are skeptical that it really will spark sweeping change.
For one thing, while the California reaction was dramatic, the situation in that state was an unusual one, both in terms of the tax burden on voters and the resources the state has to replace "lost" local tax revenues.
For another, although the hoopla over the California vote is providing ready fare for politicians right now, many tax experts and key officials see little room or avenue in most states to push through dramatic tax changes.
As a result, while the failout from the Proposition 13 explosion is likely to be visible for some months. It's far from certain that it will be anywhere near as spectacular as proponents contend.
The situation in California was unique in many respects. First, property taxes there were among the steepest in the nation with especially sharp increases in the past two years.
Unlike the case in most states, where the state income tax bears the brunt of the burden, California's property taxes went not only to finance local government, but also to pay for schools and much of the welfare load.
The only other state where the property tax has reached those proportions is New York.
Second, contrary to the situation elsewhere, it's relatively easy to get almost any issue on a California referendeum, where proposition 13-like proposals are apt to fare better than in legislatures.
Indeed, so much government tinkering is done by general vallot in California that the state is said to have a "referendum tradition." Only a handful of states has similarly easy procedures for statewide votes.
Finally, California is in much better financial shape than any other state and far better able to use state revenues "make up for" any cutback in local tax receipts.
Depending on how it's calculated, the surplus now on the books is said to total some $3.5 billion to $5 billion sizable by any measure. The next-closet is Texas, with a $2 billion surfeit. Most others are decidely less well off.
Admittedly, the California vote is having an impact in some areas. Citizen groups in Michigan, for example, just mustered enough signatures to get a tax-limitation measure on the ballot, and there are similar efforts elsewhere.
But even their proponents concede these measures are a good deal less stringent than the direct curb on property taxes than California voters approved and few observers see any genuine Proposition 13s likely anywhere.
Rather, most seem to be modeled after the one now in effect in Tennessee, which merely limits annual increases in government spending to the actual growth of the state's economy. (In other states, the limit is on taxes.)
While such formulas may sound stringent in theory, in practice they're while such formulas may sound stringent in theory, in practice they've generally had more bark than bite.
In Tennessee's most recent budget, for example, legislators found personal income in the state the statistic used to determine economic growth rose a hefty 12 per cent, far more than the budget requests had called for.
And experience in Corolado and several other states that have such spending - or tax - limitation devices shows similar results. Only in a few cases have these measures had much impact in restraining tax burdens.
To some onlookers, the bulk of the impact to Proposition 13 is likely to come at the county and municipal levels if only because the specter of massive budget cuts has officials plan panicked it will happen in their locales next.
In the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, for example, officials in surrounding states already have begun moving to cut real estate taxes. And some communities have announced economy moves, such as hiring freezes.
It's not clear, however, just how far officials can go in these efforts. Still to be tested is how much voters will tolerate the necessary cutbacks in services a really effective tax-limitation measure would force on communities.
While California has been able to fend off many such complaints so far by doing out money from the state treasury, other states without huge surpluses may find taxpayers discovering they want to hold on to key services.
Proponents of tax-limitation measures insist that paring back state and local taxes needn't require an accompanying cutback in services because there's enough "fat" in local budgets to allow room for new efficiencies.
However, tax experts say juggling tax and spending loads among state, county and local governments may prove far more difficult than some taxpayers imagine. Some are predicting a backlash later against today's "revolt."
For the moment, Proposition 13 is enjoying a heyday, being credited with everything from congressional cutbacks in the pending welfare bill to mayoral decisions not to expand the police force this year.
But on the longer-term question how much fundamental change will the California vote spark in other states and localities across the nation? The jury still is out.