By Jon Coupal – September 26, 2023
One of the most closely watched – and hotly contested – pieces of legislation now pending in the Capitol is a direct attack on Proposition 13.
Assembly Constitutional Amendment 13, until two weeks ago, was devoid of any substantive language. But it was subject to a “gut-and-amend” maneuver adding language that should alarm every California taxpayer.
To understand the severity of the threat posed by ACA 13 requires an understanding of how the courts weakened Prop. 13 over the last 45 years, especially by the infamous “Upland” decision in 2017, which opened the door to raising local taxes without the two-thirds vote that Prop. 13 requires. The court’s language in Upland led lower courts to allow local special taxes to pass with 50% plus one vote if proposed by a citizens’ initiative instead of a government body.
That decision was the last straw for all Prop. 13 defenders including homeowners and businesses, who countered with the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act (TPA), a proposed constitutional amendment to reinstate the two-thirds voter approval protection as the constitution plainly requires.
Not only has TPA qualified for the November 2024 ballot, but polling reveals it has strong support among voters. For that reason, the tax-and-spend interests – local governments and labor organizations – have launched an effort to derail this latest taxpayer protection with ACA 13, a proposed constitutional amendment that aims to tilt the playing field against taxpayers. This is an attack on the democratic principles that have allowed Californians to exercise the power of initiative for more than 100 years.
Under ACA 13, citizen-initiated constitutional amendments to protect taxpayers would require a higher vote threshold to pass than any other constitutional amendments, including any proposed by the Legislature. This is unprecedented and, in fact, if this provision had been in effect in 1978, it would have prevented Prop. 13 from ever becoming law.
Just as with the campaign 45 years ago to try to defeat Prop. 13, the air is thick with predictions of the end of civilization itself if taxpayer protections are enacted. The League of California Cities, a huge backer of ACA 13, is so apoplectic about the Taxpayer Protection Act’s restoration of the two-thirds vote for local special taxes that it is now pushing outright lies about the measure in an effort to get city officials to go on record in opposition.
Jon Coupal is President of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association