Proposal to lower local tax vote threshold fails in Assembly; local rep responds

Signal file photo of the state's Capitol building in Sacramento

A proposal for a 2020 California ballot measure to lower the vote threshold for local investment in infrastructure and affordable housing from the current two-thirds vote to 55% died in the state Assembly Monday. 

Assembly Constitutional Amendment 1, introduced by Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, failed on a vote of 46 “ayes” and 17 “noes,” with Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, casting a “no” vote. Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, abstained from voting. More than two-thirds, or 54 votes, was needed for passage. 

The proposed California constitutional change would ask state voters “to approve a reduction of the vote threshold for the approval of bond and special tax measures for local affordable housing, supportive housing, and public infrastructure projects from a two-thirds vote to a 55 percent majority,” according to the office of Aguiar-Curry.

This is the same vote threshold currently applied to all local school construction bond measures. 

During the floor debate Monday, Aguiar-Curry said the bill would not increase anyone’s taxes and would offer voters more control over how they believed their tax dollars should be spent. 

“Now, as the Assembly Local Government Committee Chair, I continue to hear about deteriorating buildings, decrepit community facilities, and our extreme lack of affordable housing,” said Aguiar-Curry in March when the bill passed in the Assembly Local Government Committee. “However, I also know firsthand that every single neighborhood, community, city, and county in California is different. This is why ACA 1 is targeted to help local communities fund critical projects and increase the supply of affordable and supportive housing.”

More than 2,200 local revenue measures placed before voters since 2001and nearly 80% of all two-thirds supermajority measures surpassed the 55% “yes” mark but failed to pass due falling just short of the two-thirds vote threshold, according to Aguiar-Curry’s office. 

Those who oppose ACA 1, including the California Taxpayers Association and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said the bill could make it easier for tax increases to pass, raise the cost of housing and weaken Proposition 13, which capped property tax rates at 1% of full cash value at the time of acquisition, with limited exceptions. 

“This was a victory for taxpayers struggling to afford life in California, but the fight isn’t over,” said Lackey. “The middle class is being driven out of our state because of the high cost of living. I’ll continue to oppose legislation like ACA 1 that will make the affordability crisis even worse.” 

The office of Smith did not respond to requests for comment following the floor debate Monday. 

Before reaching the 2020 ballot for voter approval, ACA 1 would have needed to pass the Senate. 

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