United States

California passes measure to weaken Prop 13, reduce tax and bond vote thresholds

(The Center Square) – A package of two measures aimed at changing the California constitution to reduce the popular voting threshold to increase property taxes and issue new debt will now face voters in November 2024 after being passed by the state legislature.

Under the current state Constitution, property cannot be annually taxed at more than 1% of its value, and both local tax increases and the issuing of new debt require approval by 66.7% of voters — with the lone exception for local school construction bonds, which require just 55% of voters. ACA 1, authored by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D – Napa, would allow property to be taxed at more than 1% of its value and for cities, counties and special districts (governments below the state level) to either increase taxes or issue bonds with approval from just 55% of voters for government-funded housing or public infrastructure projects. While examples of “public infrastructure” are provided in the measure, the measure also explicitly states that it places no limit on what can be defined as “public infrastructure.”

“This measure gives local governments a more realistic financing option to fund an increase in the supply of affordable housing, and to address the numerous local public infrastructure challenges cities, counties and special districts are facing,” said Curry in a statement supporting ACA 1.

This change would place tax increase or debt issuance measures well within typical Democratic margins of victory. For reference, Hillary Clinton won 62% of California in 2016, Governor Gavin Newsom 62% in 2018, President Joseph Biden 63% in 2020, and Newsom 59% in 2022.

ACA 13, meanwhile, appears to be aimed at making it more difficult to pass the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act, a measure qualified for the November 2024 ballot that would clarify that all increases in local taxes would require 66.7% voter approval — and close a loophole created by a 2017 court decision that has been used to pass local taxes introduced by citizens’ groups, not local government — and require that a state tax increase receive not just a ⅔ vote in each body of the state legislature, but also a majority vote at the ballot box.

“ACA 13 is a poison pill that would invalidate the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act by requiring that it secure a ⅔ vote of the statewide electorate,” said Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal in an interview with The Center Square.

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