Supreme Court Blocks Taxpayer Protection Act from Ballot

The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that an anti-tax measure known as the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act, or TPA, cannot appear on the November ballot. The initiative would have made it more difficult for the state and municipalities to raise taxes or fees.  

The court agreed with the state's argument that the ballot measure constituted a revision of California’s Constitution because it would enact “far-reaching changes in the nature of our basic governmental plan.”

"It is within the people's prerogative to make these changes, but they must be undertaken in a manner commensurate with their gravity: through the process for revision set forth in article XVIII of the Constitution," the court said.

Article XVIII requires a constitutional convention or a supermajority vote of the state Legislature before the Constitution can be revised.

TPA was spearheaded by the California Business Roundtable and had garnered enough valid signatures from registered voters to appear on the ballot this fall. It would have required voter approval for almost any increase in state or local taxes and fees. It also would have changed the threshold for local tax initiatives introduced by citizens from a simple majority to a two-thirds vote. 

TPA’s provisions would have been retroactive to Jan. 1, 2022, meaning any tax increases since then that did not meet the measure’s requirements would be void. Its retroactive nature was blasted by government groups, who said it would throw a monkey wrench into existing budgets. It may have also helped sway the justices. They noted the rollback provisions complicated the matter and made a pre-election review necessary.

Graham Knaus, CEO of the California State Association of Counties, praised the court’s decision, saying the measure would have “crippled essential government functions that our communities rely upon.”

TPA supporters did not hold back in reacting to the ruling. Rob Lapsley, CEO of the Business Roundtable, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal, and California Business Properties Association President-CEO Matthew Hargrove, issued the following statement Thursday:

“Today’s ruling is the greatest threat to democracy California has faced in recent memory. Governor Newsom has effectively erased the voice of 1.43 million voters who signed the petition to qualify the Taxpayer Protection Act for the November ballot. Most importantly, the governor has cynically terminated Californians’ rights to engage in direct democracy despite his many claims that he is a defender of individual rights and democracy. Evidently, the governor wants to protect democracy and individual rights in other states, but not for all Californians."

Read the Court's opinion here.