(PR): HJTA Appeals San Francisco Ruling Denying Need for Two-Thirds Vote on Taxes

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has filed an appeal of a San Francisco Superior Court ruling that special tax-increase measures submitted to the voters last year needed only a simple majority to pass instead of a two-thirds vote.

“This is a brand new loophole contravening the voters’ intent in Propositions 13 and 218 that all local special taxes require two-thirds voter consent,” said HJTA president Jon Coupal.

The Court based its ruling on a California Supreme Court opinion in a 2017 case, California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland. But that case did not involve whether a tax increase proposed by voter initiative needed a two-thirds vote to pass, nor decided if the two-thirds vote applied only to tax increases proposed by government entities.

“We argued that Upland never reached this issue. And we argued that this creates a two-margin system. Now, when the politicians themselves use the citizens’ initiative process, they can ignore the requirement of two-thirds voter consent,” said HJTA attorney Laura Dougherty, “This violates the traditional understanding of the law over the past forty years and leads to absurd results.”

Fifty-one percent of San Francisco voters approved a June 2018 measure, designated as Proposition C. That measure is a tax on commercial rents to raise more than $145 million annually for childcare, early education, and salary increases for preschool teachers. A November measure, also called Proposition C, imposes a gross receipts tax on larger businesses to raise $300 million for homeless housing and services. It received 61 percent voter approval.

Proposition 13, approved by California voters in 1978, requires a two-thirds vote of the electorate to pass a tax increase for any special purpose.

“The Legislative Analyst’s Office, California League of Cities, and numerous other local governments have agreed that all local special taxes require two-thirds voter consent,” Dougherty said. “The San Francisco Superior Court formally disagrees and has created a huge loophole.”