California Governor Gavin Newsom stands at a podium in San Jose
Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks in Santa Clara County in 2022. File photo.

In a development that has alarmed Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Legislature, counties, cities and special districts across the state, the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act — more accurately dubbed the Taxpayer Deception Act by its opponents — has qualified for the November ballot.

Placed on the ballot by the California Business Roundtable and California Business Properties Association under the guise of reform and funded by multibillion-dollar real estate interests and landlords, this initiative would severely limit the ability of local governments and the state to raise any revenue.

It would require approval by two-thirds of the Legislature and a majority of voters to raise any revenue to fund basic government functions —putting infrastructure projects, emergency and disaster response, K-12 financing, safety net programs, retirement security, public safety and homelessness services at risk. The measure is also retroactive to Jan. 1, 2022, invalidating more than 100 ballot measures and new laws, including the increase in paid family leave to low wage workers set to take effect in 2025.

The proponents of the ballot measure seek to benefit their own interests — to avoid paying their fair share in taxes — at taxpayers’ expense. It’s yet another way big corporations are looking to pass their costs on to consumers.

Their ballot measure:

  • Cuts billions from state and local governments and will cause cuts to safety net services.
  • Overturns funding for paid family leave, state disability insurance, gun violence prevention and climate programs.
  • Threatens the safety of roads, freeways and bridges by permanently eliminating billions in road repair and infrastructure funding.
  • Allows just one-third of voters to make local funding decisions and block ballot measures over the will of the majority.

More than 200 cities have officially opposed the act. The governor, Senate president pro tempore and Assembly speaker filed a challenge with the California Supreme Court arguing the measure would unlawfully revise the state constitution. They also penned an open letter to members of the California Business Roundtable calling on them to remove their support for the Taxpayer Deception Act in full-page ads in the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle on Super Bowl Sunday.

Mayors of San Jose, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland and Irvine filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court asking justices to grant immediate review in the case — Legislature v. Weber, No. S281977.

Last November, in a rare action because the court usually waits until voters approve a ballot measure before determining its constitutionality, the state Supreme Court granted a hearing on the request to remove the initiative from the ballot. All seven justices signed the order and oral argument is expected to begin in the coming weeks.

According to a statement by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins and Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas: “The measure seeks to eliminate the state’s ability to swiftly respond to emergencies and provide resources for critical services that Californians and communities rely upon.”

State officials said the retroactivity standard would apply to 15 bills already signed by Newsom that could affect fees or taxes, and at least 131 such measures passed by local governments since the start of last year.

All Californians deserve robust government services that provide strong infrastructure, safe neighborhoods and rapid emergency and disaster response. People in San Jose can take action on this year and vote No on the Taxpayer Deception Act in November.

San José Spotlight columnist Ruth Silver Taube is supervising attorney of the Workers’ Rights Clinic at the Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center, supervising attorney of the Santa Clara County’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement Legal Advice Line and a member of Santa Clara County’s Fair Workplace Collaborative. Her columns appear every second Thursday of the month. Contact her at [email protected].

Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

Leave a Reply