As the coronavirus pandemic was clobbering California — and the rest of the known world — this month, local government officials in Sacramento County enthusiastically decided to ask voters to approve a hefty sales tax increase for transportation improvements.
Were members of the Sacramento Transportation Authority board smoking some of California’s newly legalized marijuana? There must be some explanation for their flight of fiscal fantasy.
Even before the pandemic crisis erupted, California’s voters were showing strong signs of what some call “tax exhaustion” — a quiet rebellion against the seemingly insatiable demands of state and local officials for ever-higher amounts of money, either directly from taxes or from bonds to be repaid by taxes.
More than half of the several hundred local tax and bond measures on local ballots were rejected in the March 3 election, although a few more might squeak through once all votes are tallied. Even more significantly, voters overwhelmingly defeated a very large statewide bond issue for education, backed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and a multi-million-dollar sales campaign.
As the economy goes into a tailspin because of the business shutdowns mandated to battle COVID-19 and hundreds of thousands of workers lose their jobs, the prospects for any tax or bond measure plummet even further. And the negative effects are likely not confined to just financial proposals.
Dozens of initiative measures had been proposed for the November ballot as proponents hoped that a very contentious presidential election would generate a bumper crop of voters.
Voters Will Decide the Fate of Just Five Statewide Measures
A few have qualified, but signature-gathering has virtually stopped as Californians hunker down in their homes, under official orders to avoid personal contacts that spread the coronavirus. At the moment, it appears that voters will decide the fate of just five statewide measures:
CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary.