Local Taxes

Local Tax Measure Election Results: More Than Half of Local Tax and Bond Measures Were Rejected by Voters, According to Preliminary Results

Voters in the March 3 presidential primary election rejected 122 of 237 local tax and bond measures – including CalTax-opposed Measure FD in Los Angeles County – according to preliminary election reports from county registrars.

Click here for CalTax’s detailed description of the measures and the preliminary results.

Of the 121 school bonds on the ballot in various parts of the state, 64 were rejected, 21 were approved and 36 are too close to call because they are within 3.5 percent of their 55 percent vote threshold with many mail-in and provisional ballots still being counted.

“For a generation, school bonds have been a slam dunk in California,” CalMatters reported this morning. “But this election was different.”

“The election results reinforce recent polling that said Californians across the political spectrum believe their state and local taxes are too high,” CalTax President Robert Gutierrez said. “We hope elected officials and special interests will listen to the public and drop their remaining plans to further increase the tax burden on hard-working Californians.”

The early vote totals indicate that voters rejected 122 tax and bond measures and approved 58 (for a total of almost $424 million a year in new taxes and $3.6 billion in new bonds), while 57 measures are too close to call. Counties have 30 days to count the remaining ballots and finalize elections results.

The 237 tax and bond measures on local ballots marked a significant increase from the 87 that appeared on the June 2016 presidential primary ballots (67 of those measures were approved). In November 2016, however, local ballots were loaded with 427 tax and bond measures, and 353 were approved.

Local governments have several more months to place measures on this year’s presidential election ballot. Some of the districts that had measures rejected this week might be back with a new version in November – others, however, may be wary of putting measures on the November ballot alongside the split-roll property tax increase.

Measure FD, placed on the ballot by the Los Angeles County Fire Department, received only 52.52 percent support, far below the two-thirds vote needed for passage. The measure would have indefinitely imposed a parcel tax of 6 cents per square foot of building improvements, costing taxpayers in the district an estimated $134 million per year. In a pre-election column published in the Los Angeles Daily News and five other Southern California News Group publications in the county, Gutierrez noted that the measure would have made it more expensive to buy or rent a home or business in the area, and would have increased the cost of utilities, including electricity, telephone and Internet service.

Many school districts and local governments used biased ballot descriptions to encourage a “yes” vote, and also spent tax dollars on pre-election “educational outreach” that clearly advocated for tax and bond measures. The Los Angeles County Fire Department, for example, prepared an “impartial” slideshow that included the Measure FD campaign’s talking points, but didn’t discuss how the tax increase would increase housing costs and retail prices for residents.

In the Sacramento area, leaders of the Los Rios Community College District mailed full-color campaign-style mailers to voters “as a public education service” about Measure E, a $650 bond that appears to have been rejected by voters (preliminary results show that it received 48.3 percent of the vote, well below the 55 percent needed for passage).

One of the “educational” mailers distributed by the Los Rios district didn’t include any information on the property tax increase that would be imposed to repay the bond, and none of the mailers informed voters that the bond would cost taxpayers approximately $1.03 billion with interest.

In late February, the Public Policy Institute of California released a poll showing 58 percent of state residents believe state and local taxes are too high.

“Despite the spectrum of people and lifestyles across California, there are some issues where opinion is roughly similar everywhere,” PPIC said. “Many of these issues touch on the general role of government: its size and scope. At least a majority – but never more than two-thirds – in every place in the state believes taxes are too high (overall, 58 percent hold this opinion). More politically liberal places like San Francisco or the East Bay are the least aggrieved, but the difference is small.”