California Voters Approve Billions in Local Taxes and Borrowing

In March 2020, for the first time in a generation, Californian’s did not approve the overwhelming majority of new tax and bond proposals that were put before them. Out of 125 proposed local bonds, only 31 percent passed; out of 111 proposed local tax increases, only 41 percent passed.

Early returns from the November 2020 ballot show Californians have snapped back towards approving the vast majority of new local taxes and borrowing. As shown on the table below, of the 46 proposals to issue new bonds that have been decided so far, 89 percent passed, and of the 161 proposals to raise local taxes that have already been decided, 82 percent passed.

Apparently the strong rebuke voters sent the borrow and tax lobby in March 2020 was a blip. The reasons people vote for new local taxes and borrowing are known: it’s for the children, it’s for the seniors, it’s for safety. The mystery isn’t why new local taxes and bonds are approved in overwhelming percentages by California’s voters. The mystery is whatever happened in March 2020 to dissuade them.

This November, along with the perennial appeals to voter concern for children, seniors and public safety, add the massive boost to targeted ballot harvesting facilitated by universal mail-in ballots, and probably a general recognition that the COVID shutdown has left public budgets a mess, which indeed it has. But what was it back in March 2020 that had voters turning down 7 out of 10 new […] Read More

How AB 195 May Help Restore “Impartiality” to Local Ballot Language

Every two years in November, California’s local agencies ask the voters to approve hundreds of new taxes and bonds. California’s primary ballot every other June also features dozens, if not hundreds of new requests for local tax increases and borrowing. And in times of dire urgency, special elections are called. For example, this coming Tuesday, 6/04, in an off year, Los Angeles residents will vote on a new parcel tax that, if passed, will raise a half-billion dollars per year to help bail out LA Unified School District’s pension and retirement health benefits.

Oops. Apparently that characterization of the reason for this proposed tax increase is incorrect. Measure EE’s ballot question is as follows:

“To retain/attract quality teachers; reduce class sizes; provide counseling/nursing/library services, arts, music, science, math, preschool, vocational/career education, safe/well-maintained schools, adequate instructional materials/supplies; support disadvantaged/homeless students; shall Los Angeles Unified School District levy $0.16 per square foot of building improvements annually, exempting seniors/certain disability recipients, providing approximately $500,000,000 annually for 12 years, requiring annual audits, oversight, and funding local schools?”

Never mind the fact that LAUSD’s cost of employee benefits increased from $1.54 billion in 2015-16 to $1.92 billion in 2016-17, an increase of 25 percent, when the total employee headcount only increased by six-tenths of one percent. Never mind that this shortfall, $1.92 billion less $1.54 billion, is $380 million.

Ignore the cost of pension and retirement health benefits. This tax is “to retain/attract quality teachers.”

LAUSD now carries an unfunded pension liability of $6.8 […] Read More