California Court of Appeal Says Tax for “Public Safety Services” and “Other Essential Services” Not a Special Tax

Ab8oGgo5_400x400-300x300California’s Court of Appeal held a local sales tax ordinance (Measure K) was a general tax, not a special tax, and therefore its adoption did not require a two-thirds vote (supermajority) under California’s Constitution. A tax is “special” and therefore would require a two-thirds vote, when the expenditure of its revenues is dedicated to a specific project or projects. The plaintiffs argued that Measure K was a special tax because the funds were earmarked for the funding of the county’s public safety services and essential services. The Court of Appeal disagreed, concluding tax proceeds that are deposited in a separate account for unspecified “other essential services” could be used for any and all government services that qualify as an “essential service” and are therefore not dedicated to a specific project or purpose, indicative of a general tax. Thus, the court held Measure K was valid.

This case is one more in a long string of California cases addressing the supermajority voting requirement of special taxes. Because the California Supreme Court denied review of City and County of San Francisco v. All Persons Interested in the Matter of Proposition C in 2020, see Pillsbury’s coverage here, it is likely this is the end of the road for any opposition to Measure K.