July 20th, 2024

California voters lose a shot at checking state and local tax hikes at the polls

By Adam Beam, The Associated Press on June 20, 2024.

FILE - Attorney Margaret R. Prinzing, representing the California Governor and Legislature, standing, speaks at the California Supreme Court in San Francisco, Wednesday, May 8, 2024. The California Supreme Court on Thursday, June 20, removed a measure from the November ballot that would have made it harder to raise taxes, siding with Gov. Gavin Newsom and his Democratic allies in the state Legislature. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, Pool, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – The California Supreme Court on Thursday removed a measure from the November ballot that would have made it harder to raise taxes, siding with Gov. Gavin Newsom and his Democratic allies in the state Legislature.

The measure would have required voter approval for tax increases passed by the state Legislature. It also would have raised the threshold required for voter approval of certain local government tax increases to a two-thirds vote at the polls. Currently those tax increases can take affect if a simple majority of voters approve.

The measure would have applied retroactively to most tax increases approved since Jan. 1, 2022. Local governments warned that would mean they could have lost billions of dollars in revenue that had previously been approved by voters.

Newsom has opposed many tax increases during his time in office. But he sued to block this measure, saying it would harm local governments and take away the Legislature’s ability to raise taxes.

Supporters of the ballot measure argued that California has become too expensive and voters need more control over taxes. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled the measure could not be enacted by ballot initiative because it “would substantially alter our basic plan of government.” Justice Goodwin Liu wrote the opinion. “The Supreme Court’s decision to take this dangerous initiative off the ballot avoids a host of catastrophic impacts, protecting billions of dollars for schools, access to reproductive health care, gun safety laws that keep students safe in classrooms, and paid family leave,” said Jonathan Underland, spokesperson for the campaign that opposed the initiative.

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