Vote “no” on all citizen initiative tax increases. Send a message that this scam has to end. – Orange County Register
5 mins read

Vote “no” on all citizen initiative tax increases. Send a message that this scam has to end. – Orange County Register

Colin Wyatt votes on Election Day at Los Angeles City College on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

It’s one of the largest frauds in California history, bilking California residents out of hundreds of millions of dollars. But don’t expect the government to do anything to stop it.

The government is behind this.

I’m talking about the massive theft that’s being perpetrated through the Upland loophole, which should really be called the Upland sinkhole given the speed at which it swallows your money.

“Upland” is shorthand for a 2017 California Supreme Court ruling that suggested (without actually deciding) that the state constitution’s requirement that a two-thirds majority vote of the electorate be required to enact a special tax does not apply if the tax is proposed as part of a “citizen initiative.”

One wonders who are these “citizens” who want to raise their taxes so badly that they stand outside supermarkets in the heat to collect signatures for petitions?

Consider the latest proposal for an “Upland” tax in Los Angeles County. It’s a citizen initiative that would increase annual property taxes by $60 for every 1,000 square feet of a home, business or other structure located in the Los Angeles County Fire Protection District. The tax would be adjusted upward each year for inflation. The money would go to the Los Angeles County Fire Department for rent and equipment.

The citizens promoting this initiative are representatives of the Los Angeles County Firefighters Union.

This new parcel tax would raise about $150 million a year. You might think the L.A. Board of Supervisors would prioritize hiring and equipping the fire department, and cut something else in the county’s $46.7 billion budget. But why would they do that when the firefighters’ union can crawl through the “Upland” loophole for a vote?

And here’s the crux of the scam: Even though the tax increase was proposed by government employees working as part of a government service, as a “citizen initiative” under the state Supreme Court’s invented “Upland” standard, the tax increase will only need a 50 percent plus one vote, not two-thirds, to pass.

In March 2020, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors placed a similar parcel tax proposal on the ballot. It needed a two-thirds vote, 66.67%, because it was proposed by the “government.” Measure FD only won approval from 52.59% of voters, with 47.41% voting against it. It failed.

If supervisors had put the same proposal on a clipboard and gone to a supermarket to collect signatures to put it on the ballot, it would have passed the “Upland” loophole without a hitch. In fact, that happened in San Francisco in 2018. Two county supervisors ran an initiative campaign for a tax on commercial real estate leases to fund child care and early childhood education programs. It won by a slim margin, with supervisors declaring it passed because it was a “citizen initiative.”

This was challenged in court, but an appeals court ruled the case was fine.

That’s not right. The state constitution says tax increases of this kind require a two-thirds vote. But the state Supreme Court has so far refused to consider any of the appellate court rulings in San Francisco and similar cases across the state. The “upland” standard remains vague and fictitious.

But it is not everything.

A real citizen initiative, not coming from government employees, aimed to close the Upland loophole. More than 1.4 million voters signed petitions to put the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act on the state ballot this November.