California Taxes, Election Results, Local Tax Elections

Voters Approved 38 of 79 Local Tax and Bond Measures, With Another 21 Still Too Close to Call

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California voters approved 38 of the 79 local tax and bond measures on the March 5 ballot, while another 21 are too close to call based on preliminary results released by county elections officials.

The preliminary results and details about the measures are included on CalTax’s Local Tax Election Table.

Ballots postmarked on or before March 5 will continue to be accepted and counted through March 12, so voter turnout is not yet known, but the 19 percent turnout reported so far is significantly lower than other recent primaries, which have seen turnout in the neighborhood of 30 percent.

The 38 measures that were approved will cost taxpayers a cumulative $2.1 billion in higher taxes – including property tax increases to repay the bonds with interest – according to CalTax’s analysis of local revenue estimates. If all 79 measures had been approved, the cumulative tax increase would have topped $3.9 billion.

By type of tax, the local ballots included:

  • 37 school bonds (15 passing, 14 failing, eight too close to call).
  • 20 parcel taxes (12 passing, two failing, and six too close to call).
  • 16 transactions and use taxes (10 passing, two failing, four too close to call).
  • Two general obligation bonds (both too close to call).
  • Four special taxes (one passing, two failing, and one too close to call).

The total number of tax and bond measures is considerably lower than in previous presidential primary elections. Voters contended with 239 tax and bond measures in the 2020 primary and 98 in 2016.

Notable measures include:

  • Fresno State University Tax Fails. Fresno County voters rejected Measure E, a 0.25 percent transactions and use tax to fund academic initiatives at the California State University’s Fresno campus. The tax, estimated to cost residents $63 million annually, received support from 43.8 percent of the electorate. If Measure E had been approved, Fresno would have been the first county to create a dedicated local funding source for a California State University campus. State universities currently are funded by state dollars, student tuition, and donations from benefactors.
  • San Francisco Voters Approve Tax Exemption to Encourage Housing Development. San Francisco voters approved Proposition C, which exempts property from the real estate transfer tax (ranging from 0.5 percent to 6 percent) the first time commercial property is converted to residential use (with specified limitations). The measure, supported by Mayor London Breed and the local Republican Party, had 54 percent of the vote in the preliminary results. Measure C was opposed by the local Democratic Party and the Council of Community Housing Organizations, which called it “a deceptive ballot measure that takes power away from voters and allows City Hall politicians to hand out corporate tax breaks to billionaires and huge property owners.”
  • Long Beach Minimum Wage Hike Too Close to Call. A measure that would increase the minimum wage for hotel workers in Long Beach to nearly $30 per hour has a slim lead but is too close to call based on early election results. Measure RW, with 50.63 percent support in the early results, would increase the minimum wage to $23 per hour beginning in 2024, gradually increasing to $29.50 per hour beginning in 2028. The measure was placed on the ballot via a unanimous vote of the Long Beach City Council following pressure from labor groups. Measure RW – described by council members as a “middle of the road” proposal – would make Long Beach’s minimum wage the highest in the United States.
  • Sacramento Business Tax Rejected. Sacramento’s gross receipts tax, Measure C, was supported by just 39 percent of voters – far short of the majority vote necessary for passage. Measure C would have imposed a 0.04 percent gross receipts tax on Sacramento businesses with revenue exceeding $100,000 annually. The maximum annual tax liability any single taxpayer would have been required to pay was $125,000 annually. Measure C was expected to cost taxpayers $6.7 million annually.
  • Berkeley Parcel Tax Passes. Preliminary election results showed a Berkeley parcel tax, Measure H, passing with 84.68 percent of voters in support. Measure H renews and increases an expiring parcel tax with a rate of $0.54 per square foot for improved parcels and a flat $25 tax on unimproved parcels. The median 1,450-square-foot residential property will see a $782 annual tax increase when Measure H takes effect.
  • Mayor of California City Says Measure Lost Because City Didn’t Spend Enough to “Educate the Public.” In California City, located in Kern County, voters rejected Measure A, a parcel tax that would have increased taxes on property owners by $5.2 million a year. Mayor Kelly Kulikoff told the local ABC News station that the measure failed because the city didn’t spend tax dollars to hire “a firm that would help educate the public on the measure.” Kulikoff said there wasn’t consensus on the City Council to hire a firm, “so that’s a major downfall of it, especially during the primary when fewer people vote.” Kulikoff said roughly $90,000 would have been needed “for a firm that would have educated voters about the special parcel tax.” ABC News reported that the mayor said it “would have been worth it, considering the estimated $5.2 million the tax would have brought in.” The mayor added that the city might put a similar parcel tax measure on the November ballot. CalTax noted that “public education” efforts often are nothing more than thinly disguised efforts to encourage a “yes” vote on taxes — campaigning that is an illegal use of tax dollars under state law.

Voters also decided the fate of many measures that were not directly related to taxes. Among the most notable were San Francisco’s Proposition E, approved with 60 percent of the vote to allow the San Francisco Police Department to conduct more public surveillance and reduce officer reporting requirements for use of force, and Proposition F, approved with 63 percent of the vote to require people receiving cash assistance from the city who are suspected of using illegal drugs to undergo screening and mandatory treatment.

The election results will be finalized April 4.