‘Taxpayer protection’ ballot measure is an unlawful revision of the state constitution, argues Cal Cities

Jan 31, 2024

By Sheri Chapman, general counsel

Cal Cities today filed an amicus brief in support of a legal challenge that would remove the “Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act” from the November 2024 ballot. The brief argues the measure should be removed because it unlawfully revises the state constitution and would impair essential public services. 

The measure, as described by the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office, would change the rules for how taxes, fees, and other charges are imposed. Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature filed the legal challenge with the California Supreme Court last fall. Several local governments and associations supported the move, including the ten that joined Cal Cities’ amicus brief.

The brief argues the measure attempts to rewrite the entire constitutional structure of government finance in California, with vast and sweeping changes that would revise the constitution in a manner that cannot be legally achieved by initiative. The brief also notes the measure’s numerous ambiguities, which will take years and significant public resources to resolve.  

It also notes the harm caused by the retroactive provision of the measure — which would invalidate taxes adopted by voters after Jan. 1, 2022 — if not readopted as required by the measure. As an example, the brief notes the measure jeopardizes the city of Los Angeles’ Measure ULA, an initiative special tax to fund solutions to homelessness passed by voters in November 2022.

The brief explains the court needs to act now prior to the election, because even the threat of the measure becoming law may impair local governments’ ability to borrow money, constrain sound fiscal planning and budgetary decisions, and impair essential government services.

Cal Cities anticipates the court will issue a decision before the end of June 2024, when the Secretary of State must formally qualify the measure for the November 2024 ballot.