Coupal: The League of California Cities’ war on taxpayers

The League of California Cities has always been biased against the interests of taxpayers. This became especially clear during the historic Proposition 13 campaign in 1978 when the League, along with the rest of the spending lobby, predicted the end of Western Civilization if Prop. 13 passed.

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Just how out of touch was the League with the voting public?  Based on election results, the voters approved Prop. 13 in 90% of the cities in California.

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The League of Cities’ conduct during the Prop. 13 campaign was so bad that then Governor Jerry Brown scolded the League for demanding more money and being oblivious to the tax revolt. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times on May 5, 1978, just one month before the vote, “Gov. Brown [was] peppered with demands for more state money from a group of city officials [at a League meeting in San Diego] suggest[ing] they resembled passengers on the Titanic demanding more deck chairs. ‘You, of all people, should realize that a tax revolt is under way’ . . .  Said Brown to a chorus of boos, ‘you’d better wake up to the tax revolt.’”

The League’s intransigent position on tax relief even earned it criticism from Democratic legislative leadership. “Modest cuts in taxes and government spending were proposed and ignored.” Dan Boatwright, chairman of the state Assembly Ways and Means Committee, said, “The League of California Cities and the County Supervisors Assn. lobbied [legislators] to death.”‘

To add insult to injury, all this anti-taxpayer lobbying was paid for with taxpayer dollars.

In addition to advocating against taxpayers, a more recent phenomenon is that many of the League positions are contrary to the interests of cities and the principle of local control. Several municipal officials who are actually concerned about the fiscal health of their cities are growing disenchanted with the League and are moving to distance themselves from League positions and even to leave the League entirely.

This past Tuesday, the Orange City Council voted to leave the League over its support for Proposition 1 – a measure many local officials say could worsen the problems currently associated with group homes. “It should be noted that housing projects funded by this bond would be considered ‘use by right,’ potentially preempting local zoning law for properties with multifamily residential, office, retail, or parking uses,” reads the City of Orange staff report.

The move by Orange comes after Newport Beach and Huntington Beach left the League of California Cities over its support for Prop. 1.  Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill stated, “While the League of California Cities has regularly taken positions opposite the interests of taxpayers, the tipping point to leave the League completely came when they advocated for Proposition 1 despite acknowledging the serious and disastrous effects buried in the fine print. Specifically, Prop. 1 will take away local control by requiring cities to approve rehab housing funded with billions of dollars in new bond money. The League is supposed to advocate for cities, but they have actively harmed cities with this overtly political decision. Cities should not fund an organization putting Sacramento’s interests above our residents.”

The most recent target of the League’s hysterical outrage is the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act (TPA), a proposed constitutional amendment which has already qualified for the November 2024 ballot. It is sponsored by taxpayer and business organizations to restore key provisions of Proposition 13 and other pro-taxpayer laws that give voters more control over when and how new tax revenue is raised.

Although TPA, unlike previous tax reform measures, doesn’t reduce or eliminate any state or local tax, it does impose both enhanced voter approval requirements for fee and tax increases as well as robust accountability and transparency provisions. And yet, even though TPA is relatively modest, the League, once again, is predicting End Times disasters.

For example, the League’s chief complaint about TPA isn’t about TPA at all, but rather a long-standing provision of Proposition 13 requiring a two-thirds vote for local special taxes (taxes for a specific purpose). This 44-year-old requirement was weakened in 2017 by ambiguity in the California Supreme Court’s infamous Upland decision. Lower courts have interpreted the decision to allow special taxes to pass with only 50% plus one vote if the tax was put on the ballot by a “citizens’ initiative.” This has enabled special interests to draft their own tax increases, direct the money to themselves, and get these self-serving measures passed with only a simple majority vote. TPA simply restores the two-thirds vote requirement and closes this costly loophole.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register


  1. Really??? says

    When challenged about voted for positions statements, the councils of most cities in the County of Santa Barbara refused to meet the challenges by the public.

    So there you go….. you elect radicals, you defund police, you destroy road systems for failed 15 minute city planning and then you wonder why it is so difficult to live in this Socialist state?


    Getting it yet?

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