Calif. Supreme Court removes Taxpayer Protection Act from ballot

Republicans derided the move, calling it an outrageous abuse of power.

The California Supreme Court decided Tuesday to remove an initiative from the November ballot that would make it more difficult for the state and local governments to raise taxes. 

Democrats widely praised the decision to remove the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act, with Republicans calling the move outrageous. 

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The backstory: The Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act would have required voters to sign off on all new tax increases at the state and local levels. 

  • It also would have reclassified many fees as taxes – which would then require voter approval – and subject tax increases enacted since 2022 to high thresholds. 
  • Citizen-led special tax measures would have needed a two-thirds majority vote under the measure, rather than the 50 percent threshold currently in place. 
  • The state filed a lawsuit to remove the measure from the ballot. 

The big picture: In its unanimous ruling, the state Supreme Court agreed with Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democrats, saying the measure would revise the California Constitution and interfere with the basic role of government. 

  • “The TPA’s voter approval requirements, its nondelegation rules, and its expansion of the referendum power to charges previously held to be essential operate together to fundamentally rework the fiscal underpinnings of our government at every level,” the ruling reads. “The TPA would shift so much authority, in such a significant manner, that it would substantially alter our framework of government.” 

Democrats celebrate: “We are grateful the California Supreme Court unanimously removed this unconstitutional measure from the ballot,” Newsom’s office said in a statement. “The Governor believes the initiative process is a sacred part of our democracy, but as the Court’s decision affirmed today, that process does not allow for an illegal constitutional revision.”

  • Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D–Hollister) said the measure would have taken power away from local communities. 
  • “I’m very pleased the California Supreme Court rejected this unlawful and extreme effort to take power away from local communities to pay for essential services like police and firefighters,” Rivas said in a statement. “I will always fight to protect hard-working Californians, and remain committed to responsible government action that uplifts all residents of our state.” 

The other side: Assembly minority leader James Gallagher (R–Yuba City) blasted the court for its decision. 

  • “This decision is an outrageous abuse of power by seven Justices who think they know better than the 40 million people of California,” Gallagher said. “The Court is supposed to look out for the people, not rubber stamp the anti-democratic schemes of politicians hell-bent on protecting their power. Today, the Court silenced the voices of Californians and shredded its credibility in the process.”
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