Safeguard for You? Two-Thirds Majority to Raise Tax

Often when I talk about my wish to get rid of Prop 13’s requirement for a 2/3 majority legislative vote to raise taxes, the word “safeguard” comes up. I hear people say, “You want to do that? I thought needing a 2/3 vote was a safeguard to keep the government from raising our taxes too much.”

That’s a reasonable thought process. Consensus decision-making, with a back-up of super-majority vote, has a long tradition, and is being continued today in the Occupy Movement. It works when a group of people have basically the same agenda, and need to make decisions about how to implement that agenda. However…

How the 2/3 Majority Plays Out in California

California was the only state that required a 2/3 majority to both raise taxes and pass a budget.

The 2/3 requirement to pass a budget was instituted in 1933. Since there were golden years for California’s educational system and employment opportunities in the decades after 1933, apparently the 2/3 majority needed to pass a budget was not a big problem.

The 2/3 requirement to raise taxes was instituted after property-tax-flattening Proposition 13 passed in 1978. A simple majority was kept in place, however, to lower taxes. That resulted in a “ratcheting” effect and a long unlucky streak for California’s schools and opportunities.

In boom years, taxes were lowered with a simple 50% + 1 majority vote. Californians are well aware that the main beneficiaries of lowered taxes in boom years were the 1%, not the 99%. And we’re aware that the 1% is the political donor class, so some of the money kept from taxes went to legislators in the form of campaign contributions. In lean years, we can’t get the revenue back, because it takes a super-majority 2/3 vote.

One 2/3 Majority is Eliminated

In November 2010, a proposition passed to eliminate the 2/3 requirement to pass a budget. A future blog on Bad Budgets Faster will tell behind-the-scenes details about the 2010 movement to eliminate both 2/3 requirements, including how then-Attorney General Jerry Brown impeded the drive to eliminate the 2/3 requirement for raising revenue. We’ll also cover what kinds of taxes do get passed, and which do not, as well as the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” which should of course be named the “Rich Taxpayer Protection Pledge.”

There are solutions, we need to remember that, solutions including publicly-owned banks like a State Bank and getting rid of the 2/3 majority to raise taxes. Thank goodness we have a growing number of people working on the revolution of solutions.

More to come!

About Laura Wells: Solutions
I ran for Controller in California in 2014 on a State Bank and Tax The Rich platform. I am part of the “No Corporate Money” Campaign, in which candidates pledge to take no corporate money and voters declare our intention to vote for no-corporate-money candidates. As a Green Party candidate for Governor of California in 2010, I was arrested outside a gubernatorial debate for “trespassing at a private party.” But we won't stop, and so let's create a "public party" where we debate solutions to California's finances, like implementing a State Bank and taxing the rich -- to reduce the disparity and open up opportunities. Twitter: @LauraWellsCA

2 Responses to Safeguard for You? Two-Thirds Majority to Raise Tax

  1. The post is absolutely brilliant ….lot of great information and inspiration which we all need …
    thanks for sharing this article bout majority to raise taxes ..

  2. cb says:

    There are less than 10% homeowners left who still have homes under the old Prop 13. However it does keep taxes at 1%. How can you think it is just the wealthy who have benefited? Most of those remaining in their homes in that category are old people with old homes that you would not even want to own. If 13 is overthrown so as to pay for the out of control spending, rents will go up a lot to cover the taxes for sure. This state needs less spending, not more taxes. 1% is enough on a home as it is.

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