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California Voters Lose a Shot at Checking State and Local Tax Hikes at the Polls
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By Associated Press
Published 4 weeks ago on
June 20, 2024

California Supreme Court removes a measure that would have made it harder to raise taxes, siding with Gov. Gavin Newsom. (Shutterstock)

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SACRAMENTO — 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’s Opposition and Court’s Ruling

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. Removing a qualified measure from the ballot before an election is rare in California, but not unprecedented. The court wrote it was necessary in this case to review the initiative because it would have potentially voided tax increases put in place after Jan. 1, 2022. That may have deprived government of some funding lawmakers were counting on.

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