San Francisco trial court ruling a temporary setback for Prop. 13

By Jon Coupal | Recently, a San Francisco judge upheld the validity of a local special tax that failed to secure a two-thirds vote of the city electorate as required both by Proposition 13 (1978) and Proposition 218 (1996), also known as the Right to Vote on Taxes Act. Both initiatives were sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. The lawsuit was brought by HJTA and, after the ruling, it immediately filed an appeal.

A weekly column by Jon Coupal

The harmful consequences of the court’s ruling cannot be overstated. Unless reversed on appeal, a gaping new loophole will have been created in the Constitutional protections for taxpayers that voters have repeatedly ratified over the decades. Moreover, the decision is a green light to tax-and-spend interests to extract even more dollars from the most heavily taxed citizens in the United States.

By way of background, in June of 2018, 50.87% of San Francisco voters voted affirmatively for Proposition C, a tax on commercial rents. There is no dispute that the tax, projected to raise $145 million annually, was intended for the specific purposes of providing child care, early education, and salary increases for preschool teachers in the City of San Francisco.

The less than fifty-one percent of the vote doesn’t cut it. Proposition 13, approved by California voters in 1978, requires a two-thirds vote of the electorate to pass a tax increase for any special purpose. This has been the law for 40 years. It has also been the consistent position of interests often hostile to taxpayer rights. The Legislative Analyst’s Office, California League of Cities, and numerous other local governments have agreed that all local special taxes require two-thirds voter consent.

The basis for the court’s strange ruling, unfortunately, had its genesis in an earlier California Supreme Court case in 2017.

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