We’ve seen this before. Whenever taxpayers qualify an initiative for the statewide ballot that brings fiscal sanity to a fiscally insane California, local governmentinterests respond with unhinged hysteria, claiming that empowering voters to approve tax and fee increases will bring about the end of Western Civilization.
Well, cue the theatrics because here we are again. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, California’s largest taxpayer advocacy organization, known for its relentless defense of Proposition 13 (1978), is backing the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act (TPA). This measure, which has already qualified for the 2024 ballot, closes several loopholes created by the courts that severely weaken important taxpayer and homeowner protections.
As just one example, Prop. 13’s long-standing requirement that a local special tax receive a two-thirds vote of the electorate was weakened by the ambiguity created by the infamous Upland decision (2017), which gave tax-and-spend interests a template on how to impose new taxes that, for 40 years, were illegal.
In Upland, the state Supreme Court suggested that if tax increases were put on the ballot by a citizens’ initiative, constitutional requirements might not apply.TPA closes that loophole by subjecting all special taxesto a two-thirds vote requirement, whether that tax was put on the ballot by government or by initiative sponsored by special interest organizations.
Restoring the original intent of Proposition 13 & 218 has caused local government associations to reach for their handy grab bag of lies. For example, the League of California Cities, which never met a tax that it didn’t like, is pushing out a “Special Release” claiming that TPA somehow restricts the right to vote on tax measures. This is absurd.
First, since when did the League of California Cities show any sympathy for the right of homeowners to vote on tax hikes? For decades it has consistently opposed that right, fighting against every single pro-taxpayer initiative including Prop 13 (1978), Prop 63 (1986), Prop 218 (1996), and Prop 26 (2010).
Second, since when did the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association oppose the right to vote on taxes? Easy answer: Never.
There is something curious about the League’s “Special Release” appearing in small and medium newspapers throughout California. They claim that TPA is sponsored by “developers, mega-landlords, and other corporate interests.” They seem to have conveniently forgotten that the HJTA is a co-sponsor and provided substantial input into the drafting of the measure. Perhaps that’s because they know that HJTA has a stellar record of protecting the interests of citizen taxpayers and homeowners.
To be sure, it is understandable that local government interests would fight a measure that impedes their ability to impose even higher taxes. But the frequency and intensity of the falsehoods emanating from local governments is a bit surprising. Perhaps it is becauseTPA will prove to be very effective in protecting the rights of taxpayers for fair taxation and transparency.
For example, another provision of TPA clarifies the existing definition of what is a ‘tax,’ and requires either voters, or the local governing body, to approve all taxes and exempt charges. Despite the clear intent of the voters when they passed Prop. 13, Prop. 218, and Prop. 26, the courts have, for the last decade, created significant loopholes that directly contradict what voters approved at the ballot box.
The Act also applies many of these same provisions at the state level, allowing voters to approve all statewide taxes passed by the Legislature and requiring the Legislature to approve all fees and other charges, rather than being imposed by unaccountable administrative agencies.
Californians are overtaxed. They are subject to the highest income tax rate in America, the highest state sales tax rate, and the highest gas tax. The Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act will guarantee voters, not politicians, have the final decision on whether to raise taxes, maintain current revenue streams, and ensure transparency and accountability on future tax and fee increases.
No amount of dissembling by the League of California Cities can alter the fact that the Taxpayer Protection Act preserves the letter and spirit of Propositions 13 and 218.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.