Proponents seeking Sacramento County $8.5 billion sales tax increase exploiting opening that may ultimately close


 
 
If all 75,000 signatures are validated by the Sacramento County Voters Registration and Election, Sacramento County voters will be asked this November if they support a 40-year $8.5 billion sales tax increase to fund road construction and repair. 
 
The group calling itself A Committee for a Better Sacramento (ACBS) recently said it had submitted the signatures to place an initiative on the November ballot to seek the sales tax increase. If this sounds vaguely familiar, in 2016, the multi-jurisdictional Sacramento Transportation Authority (STA) placed a measure on the ballot to seek an identical sales tax increase for road construction and repair. 
 
That measure failed to meet the required 66.66-percent voter approval by less than one percent. In 2020, after extensive deliberations, the STA board declined to pursue an identical measure after facing stiff resistance and acrimony among board members.

This time it will be different. California judicial rulings have said if a sales tax initiative is sponsored by a non-governmental group, only a simple majority is needed for passage, hence ACBS, instead of STA, is sponsoring the measure. 
 
The ACBS has received major funding from Angelo T. Tsakopoulos and Affiliated Entities.

Through a series of lawsuits over voter tax initiatives in San Francisco, appellate court decisions ruled they were not required to meet the two-thirds requirement. The California Supreme Court refused to hear appeals, and the rulings stood.

"Now, any special interest group with some cash – such as public employee unions - can push taxes that benefit themselves," Bruce Lee, President of Sacramento Taxpayers Association said. "If I can convince the bare majority to tax others for some feel-good topic, then I'm the winner and feel no pain."
 
Interestingly, signature-gathering is underway for a possible November proposition sponsored by the California Business Roundtable addressing several things, including this judicial loophole. That proposition is called the Taxpayer Protection Governmental Accountability Act (TPGAA).
 
The proposition's website Taxpayerprotection.com highlights obstacles the proposition could confront ACBS if it qualifies for the November ballot.

According to the website, the proposition would:

"Will reinstate the two-thirds approval requirement for any new or higher 'special taxes' proposed by initiative in a local election, while still maintaining the current majority vote requirement for general tax increases."

And of more significance for ACBS,

"The measure requires any new or increased taxes passed after January 1, 2022 to conform to the measure, which is done to avoid further confusion or conflicts for new and higher revenue passed this year." 

Unsurprisingly, the League of California Cities ironically opposes the action saying the measure would create loopholes for developers and big businesses.

"This deceptive initiative would undermine the rights of local voters and their elected officials to make decisions on critical local services that residents rely upon," Graham Knaus, Executive Director, California State Association of Counties (CSAC), said in a press release. "It creates major new tax loopholes at the expense of residents and will weaken our local services and communities."

Notable groups joining the League in opposition to the TPGAA are the SEIU California, AFSME California, and California Professional Firefighters.

This proposition could present a conundrum for ACBS and other non-governmental agencies seeking tax increases, especially this November. Should the TPGAA qualify for the November ballot and be approved, it could negate the opening the ACBS is trying to exploit.


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