HJTA files suit against Attorney General for ballot material deception

Wednesday the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed a lawsuit against California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for his abject failure to produce impartial ballot material related to Proposition 15, the “split roll” attack that seeks the partial repeal of Proposition 13. 

Past criticism of Becerra’s bias has been vocal but has now reached a crescendo. Just this past week, editorial boards and columnists have lambasted Becerra. In fact, the specific deficiencies of Prop 15’s ballot label as well as the title and summary are well identified in the media reports themselves:

  • “The ballot title on Prop. 15 begins by stating that it ‘increases funding sources for public schools, community colleges and local government services.’ It would do so, it states, by ‘changing tax assessment’—not raising taxes—on commercial and industrial property.” (John Diaz, California attorney general loads language on 2 November measures, The S.F. Chronicle, July 26, 2020, https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/diaz/article/California-attorney-general-loads-language-on-2-15434094.php, emphasis in original.)
  • “The title and summary of Proposition 15 are not only tilted toward one side, they are less than fully accurate. Property in California is not taxed on ‘purchase price.’ It’s taxed on fair market value at the time of purchase, adjusted annually, for inflation with increases capped at 2 percent per year…To say property is currently taxed on ‘purchase price’ conveys an impression that property taxes do not rise at all, which is misleading in a way that favors the measure’s proponents who seek to raise taxes. It’s also misleading, if not completely false, to state that Proposition 15 ‘increases funding sources.’ It doesn’t add new sources, it increases taxes on existing sources: businesses in California.” (The Editorial Board, Editorial: Biased ballot measure titles and summaries distort our democracy, Southern California News Group + Bay Area News Group, July 22, 2020, https://www.ocregister.com/2020/07/22/biased-ballot-measure-titles-and-summaries-distort-our-democracy/.)
  • “California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has once again written a biased ballot title and summary, which deliberately misleads voters about Prop. 15…” “The attorney general contorts the English language to avoid using the word ‘tax.’ Unfortunately, he can’t call Prop 15 a revenue increase, since, as the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office says, some rural governments could lose money if Prop 15 passes.” (Katy Grimes, Prop. 15: Messy Title, Feud With Signer, and Ironic Zuckerberg Contributions, California Globe, July 27, 2020, https://californiaglobe.com/section-2/prop-15-messy-title-feud-with-signer-and-ironic-zuckerberg-contributions/.)
  • “Rather than simply describe Proposition 15 for what it does, Becerra’s official title summarizes it this way: ‘Increases funding for public schools, community colleges, and local government services by changing tax assessment of commercial and industrial property.’” (Dan Walters, Becerra slants two ballot measure titles, CALmatters, July 27, 2020, https://calmatters.org/commentary/dan-walters/2020/07/california-becerra-partisan-ballot-measure-titles/.)

“This blatant manipulation of the ballot label as well as the title and summary is in direct contravention of the Attorney General’s fiduciary duty to prepare impartial ballot material,” said Jon Coupal, President of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. 

California voters are entitled by law to “a true and impartial statement of the purpose of the measure in such language that the ballot title and summary shall neither be an argument, nor be likely to create prejudice, for or against the proposed measure.” Instead, Attorney General Becerra has bowed to the political power of special interests who seek to hide from the voters that the measure they have put on the ballot is the biggest property tax increase in California history.

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