California Supreme Court Removes Initiative From Ballot That Could Have Limited Tax Hikes

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom successfully petitioned to remove a proposition from the state’s 2024 ballot that would have required all new taxes to be approved by voters, the Associated Press reported.

Newsom and Democratic state lawmakers urged the California Supreme Court in September to remove the ballot measure, which would have required any new tax levied by the legislature to be approved by a popular vote and any local tax increase to be approved by two-thirds of voters, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the initiative must be removed from the ballot because it would revise, rather than amend, the state’s constitution, according to the AP.

“Today’s ruling is the greatest threat to democracy California has faced in recent memory,” the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act campaign said in a press release reacting to the ruling. “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.”

The group claimed that 1.43 million voters signed the petition to qualify the measure to appear on the 2024 ballot, according to the press release.

Opponents of the measure, however, stressed that the ability of the state to levy taxes is crucial to the provision of important services, the AP reported.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to take this dangerous initiative off the ballot avoids a host of catastrophic impacts, protecting billions of dollars for schools, access to reproductive health care, gun safety laws that keep students safe in classrooms and paid family leave,” Jonathan Underland, a spokesperson for the campaign against the initiative, said, according to the AP.

If passed, the measure would have retroactively repealed most of the tax increases passed by the state’s Democratic leadership since 2022, including a tax hike on firearms and ammunition, the AP reported. Local officials warned that these repeals could have decreased public revenues by billions of dollars.

Though Newsom opposed the ballot measure, he has also opposed some tax increases and advocated against new taxes on wealthy Californians, the AP reported. The governor has, however, proposed raising taxes on businesses to help balance the state’s budget.

California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office projects that the state’s budget deficit will hit $73 billion during the 2024 fiscal year, which is $15 billion higher than its initial estimate. The budgetary pitfall is driven by declining state revenues.

Tens of thousands of Californians have left their state in recent years, with many of them taking significant resources with them. California saw a net loss of over 27,000 tax filers with an adjusted gross income of $200,000 or more between 2020 and 2021, according to the Tax Foundation.

“We are grateful the California Supreme Court unanimously removed this unconstitutional measure from the ballot. 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,” a spokesperson for the California Governor’s Office told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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