Cal Cities backs state-led legal challenge against deceptive ‘taxpayer protection’ ballot measure

Sep 27, 2023

The California Legislature, Gov. Gavin Newsom, and voter John Burton on Tuesday filed an emergency petition with the California Supreme Court seeking to remove the “Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act” initiative from the November 2024 Ballot.

The California Business Roundtable (CBRT) — a group of the state’s wealthiest corporations — is sponsoring the initiative.

The Legislature and others argue the CBRT initiative unlawfully revises the state constitution and cripples essential state and local government functions. The League of California Cities plans to file an amicus letter in support of the petition and a pre-election review of the initiative.

“If this measure passes, it will upend and jeopardize city revenue streams needed to provide essential local services," said Carolyn Coleman, Cal Cities Executive Director and CEO. "Our residents expect and rely upon fire, police, and a wide range of other services — including shelter for those experiencing homelessness, safe streets and roads, the maintenance of playgrounds and sidewalks, and garbage removal. But with this measure, residents will get less.” 

If passed, the CBRT ballot measure would expand the definition of what constitutes a tax and raise the voter approval threshold for local taxes. The initiative would also limit certain fees to the least amount necessary to provide the service. Governments would need to defend those fees with clear and convincing evidence. This ambiguity could lead to thousands of costly lawsuits.

“Given what’s at stake, our cities deserve clarity sooner rather than later regarding the validity of this measure,” Coleman said.

Crucially, the CBRT ballot measure would apply to any tax and certain fees adopted after Jan. 1, 2022. Local governments would have one year to ask voters to reapprove those taxes. The initiative would also impose new requirements for the ballot materials used to submit taxes to voters.

Writ petitions are generally heard as a matter of discretion. Pre-election ballot measure reviews are conducted when the validity of an initiative is in serious doubt, and where the matter can be resolved before unnecessary expenditures of time and effort have been placed into a futile election campaign.