Protect Prop. 13

California Supreme Court to soon decide if voters will see major tax measure on November ballot – Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act

California Supreme Court to soon decide if voters will see major tax measure on November ballot

The California Supreme Court within the next several weeks is expected to decide whether voters will be presented with a proposal on the November ballot that would make it harder for state and local governments to raise taxes.

The state’s highest court spent an hour Wednesday morning hearing arguments on the issue as it considers stripping the measure from the ballot. Last year, the governor and Democratic-led state legislature asked the court to toss it, with concerns that it’s unconstitutional and could limit the government’s ability to deliver key services.

The proposed Taxpayer Protection Act would require voters to have the final say on future taxes and fees imposed by state and local governments. It would also cancel new taxes and fees that started in 2022 unless approved by voters within a year of the act going into effect. The measure is backed by the California Business Roundtable along with other business and taxpayer advocacy groups.

The court did not appear quick to take sides Wednesday, but the bulk of its questioning was directed toward the attorney representing the California Legislature and Governor. The court questioned the government’s uncertainty with the proposal in its entirety along with its impact on direct democracy.

“What is the significance of the Legislature having this power as opposed to sharing this power with the electorate?” said Justice Goodwin Liu. “Why would that be such a major transformation?”

“From the founding of the state, the Legislature has had the supreme power of taxation,” said Margaret Prinzing, the attorney who argued on behalf of the state “This measure would revoke that power for the first time in the history of California and instead put it in the hands of the voters.”

Justices also questioned the impacts of the broad proposal. Justice Liu noted it would affect fees large and small, including library fines and traffic tickets.

“This measure doesn’t have a cap,” he said.

Thomas Hiltachk, who argued on behalf of the initiative’s proponents, urged the court not to make a political judgment.

“That judgment should be entrusted to voters,” Hiltachk told the court.

Following the hearing, Richard Rios, another attorney representing the state, told KCRA 3 he hoped the court was persuaded by the government’s argument.

When asked why the government was making this case in front of the state’s highest court and not directly voters Rios said, “The constitution doesn’t allow revisions to be presented to voters or achieved by initiative, so our argument is that this is a change in the foundational powers of the legislature and governor and that’s why it’s not able to be proposed by initiative.”

Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, was encouraged by the hearing.

“What we saw today is that the Supreme Court, I think, is a little hesitant to engage in a preelection review. They might want to address some of the provisions later, but right now this is about empowering taxpayers,” Coupal said.

“I think we were particularly incensed at the suggestion by the governor’s attorneys that the people of the state of California aren’t smart enough to control their own taxation,” he said.

The court is likely to decide before June 27, which is the deadline for California’s Secretary of State to certify the November ballot.