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The Fate of TPA Debated at the California Supreme Court


The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments on whether the Taxpayer Protection Act (TPA) should be on the November ballot. Ultimately, the Court will decide if California voters are sophisticated enough to vote on how they should be taxed. 

Legal Updates

Opponents, including the state, argued that the TPA is an unconstitutional "revision" needing legislative approval and questioned voters' expertise on tax policy.   

Proponents asserted that the state constitution empowers voters to address tax issues through initiatives.  

The TPA campaign maintains confidence that the Court will permit the 1.4 million petitioning voters to see TPA on the November ballot.  

The Court’s decision will be made on June 27th.   

What You Need to Know About TPA

The Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act (TPA) would restore and enhance taxpayer protections in California.

The Upland court decision opened the door to new local special taxes passed by less than the previously required 2/3rds majority.  

This decision has led locally to new real estate transfer taxes, including Measure ULA.  

The lower voting threshold meant special interests could pass taxes with less community buy-in.  

Some other key elements of TPA include: 

  • Politician Accountability: Requires voter approval for new or increased state taxes via a majority vote in a statewide election. 
  • Government Transparency: The law mandates clear descriptions of new or higher taxes, their purpose, and their duration on official ballot summaries. 
  • Local Property Tax Allocation: This ensures that property tax revenues stay within the county of collection to support local schools and essential services. 
  • Prevention of Hidden Taxes: Limits new or increased fees to the actual or reasonable cost of services, preventing overcharging by governments. 

You can read the act's language here 

How TPA Impacts You

The most immediate impact is with Measure ULA. TPA includes a "look-back" provision to taxes passed after October 2021.  

Taxes passed after that date that failed to meet the TPA requirements must be re-submitted to voters.  

Measure ULA passed by less than a 2/3rds majority, so it would need to be voted on again.  

We have seen the negative impact Measure ULA generated on our industry. Sales have been more challenging, and capital is reevaluating investments in LA.  

The TPA does not ban new taxes, but it does mean greater stakeholder engagement.  

It helps ensure we have a seat at the table and won't see expensive new local taxes imposed by the slimmest of majorities.  

Status of the Measure

With this much money on the line, the opposition is unsatisfied with leaving this decision to voters.  

The governor, legislature, and League of California Cities have united to support a lawsuit to remove TPA from the ballot.  

Opponents argue that TPA is too significant of a constitutional change not to have the legislature weigh in more directly.  

It would be unprecedented for the court to remove TPA from the ballot. 

Additionally, the legislature passed ACA 13 last fall. ACA 13 makes passing taxpayer protections more difficult.  

It requires taxpayer protections to pass by the same threshold as the new taxpayer protection requires taxes to pass by. For example, a measure requiring taxes to pass by 2/3rds vote would need to pass by 2/3rds itself.  

The battle over this measure will be significant.  

Already, the opposition is claiming this measure will mean "lights out" for city hall.  

In fact, it is a restoration of tax protections we previously enjoyed. 

How You Can Be Involved

The campaign for TPA will be one of the biggest in November. Its effects extend beyond our industry and impact our personal lives, too.  

Share the message that this measure would restore previously held protections from tax hikes. You can subscribe to updates from the campaign directly here.   

TPA remains one of our best avenues for pulling back Measure ULA. It would also protect us from future ULAs across the county. 

Please stay connected with us at BOMA on the Frontline for the latest news on TPA. 

We will have a virtual town hall with the campaign on ,register here. 

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