Brown Droppings

California’s Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act requires voter approval for all new taxes passed by the legislature and two-thirds voter approval for all new special tax increases. The Act also demands clear definitions of what is a tax or a fee, along with truthful descriptions of new tax proposals. Before any tax or fee is enacted, politicians must clearly outline how the revenues would be spent, and so on.  The measure has qualified for the November 5 ballot but Gov. Gavin Newsom and former governor Jerry Brown want the state supreme court to take the Act off the ballot.

Gov. Newsom contends that measure would “effectively block the state’s ability to quickly respond to major challenges.” Brown’s amicus brief argues that the measure is a constitutional revision, rather than an amendment, basically a distinction without a difference. Surprisingly, the former governor mentions the 1978 Proposition 13, the People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation, which limited property tax increases and required a two-thirds vote of the legislature to increase non-property taxes. As Brown’s brief contends:

Proposition 13, the court concluded back in 1978, perhaps with undue optimism, “was both modest and does not change our basic governmental plan.” The same cannot be said of the Measure, which turns our basic governmental plan inside out.

In an attempt to give the back of the hand to these concerns, Real Party echoes a 1950s film noir in which a police officer tells a crowd, “there’s nothing to see, move along,” when the police officer in fact is standing in front of a corpse – in this instance (to apply the metaphor to the facts), the corpse of our State Government.

Amicus Curiae Edmund G. Brown served as a law clerk to Justice Mathew Tobriner of this Court from 1964 to 1965; as a member of the Los Angeles Community Board of Trustees from 1969 to 1971; as Secretary of State of California from 1971 to 1975; as mayor of Oakland, California, from 2007 to 2011; and as governor of California from 1975 to 1983 and 2011 to 2019. Governor Brown’s many years of service in state and local government have given him an unprecedented understanding of how government functions and a deep interest in ensuring that our state and local government entities continue to serve the public effectively.

Rather than allow the people to make the call, Jerry Brown wants the supreme court to take the Taxpayer Protection and Accountability Act off the ballot. While the decision awaits, there’s a few things Brown’s brief failed to mention.

In runs for the presidency in 1976, 1980 and 1992, Jerry Brown came up a loser, and in 1982 Brown lost a Senate race to Republican Pete Wilson, mayor of San Diego. On the other hand, Brown did succeed in transforming the Golden State from a place people wanted to live to a place people want to leave.

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