The first full week of November is a monumental week for California. It’s the week when California voters will elect their local, state, and federal lawmakers. Voters will also determine the fate of ballot measures that are part of the most expensive campaigns in California history.
For the League of California Cities, the first full week of November is a critical time for a different reason. This is when we anticipate the dangerous California Business Roundtable (CBRT) ballot measure, deceptively named the “Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act,” will qualify for the November 2024 ballot. The CBRT is an organization comprised of major corporations across the state.
Each year, Cal Cities fights off challenges in the Legislature and at the ballot box that threaten to erode local control. Let me be clear about this one: The CBRT ballot measure will be the biggest threat to local taxing authority our cities have ever faced.
This ballot measure is THE anti-local control measure. It calls for stricter rules for raising taxes, fees, assessments, and property-related fees that fund critical local services. Fiscal certainty is critical to the sustainability of local services that residents rely on. This measure would disrupt that certainty, creating new mechanisms to challenge or repeal local revenue-raising measures.
This ballot measure puts at risk the billions of dollars currently dedicated to funding critical local services. It could force cuts to public schools, fire and emergency response, law enforcement, public health, parks, libraries, affordable housing, services that support homeless residents, mental health services, and more. It would also reduce funding for critical infrastructure like streets and roads, public transportation, drinking water, new schools, sanitation, utilities, and more.
This is the third attempt by special interest groups to advance this dangerous initiative. It was a bad idea in 2018 when we negotiated its withdrawal from the ballot. It was a bad idea again in 2022 when it failed to muster the signatures needed by the deadline. And it will be a bad idea in 2024 if it qualifies.
The CBRT raised over $16 million and submitted nearly 1.5 million signatures in an effort to qualify this measure. By early November, when the signature verification process concludes, it is very likely that this measure will qualify for the November 2024 statewide ballot. Backed by real estate developers and wealthy corporations with deep pockets, they WILL raise tens of millions more dollars to try to convince voters to support this measure in 2024.
Cal Cities is no stranger to what it takes to be successful at the ballot box: tens of millions of dollars and strong coalition partners. Since late last year, when we first learned of this measure, we began building a formidable coalition to defeat this measure and are now working with very powerful groups in opposition. Coalition members include SEIU California, California Professional Firefighters, California Special Districts Association, California State Association of Counties, AFSCME California, the California Alliance for Jobs, and more than 150 cities, counties, and special districts. And our coalition continues to grow.
When this measure qualifies, success in 2024 means being all in with a powerful coalition — that includes all of you — united to defeat this anti-local control measure. Your regional public affairs manager will follow up with more information on how your city can get engaged in helping us defeat this measure.
Cal Cities is also aggressively exploring additional ways to protect local control at the ballot box. The Cal Cities Board of Directors and our members through the General Assembly at the annual conference have directed Cal Cities to explore the feasibility of a ballot measure that fights back against the continual erosion of local land use authority by the state. And that process is already underway.
Cal Cities diligently focused on this work in 2022 and remains committed to it in 2023 starting with the Board meeting in December and the Housing, Community, and Economic Development Policy Committee and Environmental Quality Policy Committee meetings in late January. Through your regional public affairs managers and Cal Cities Advocate, we will keep you informed as this process moves forward.
In 1898, California cities came together as the League of California Cities to protect, promote, and preserve local control in local matters. The CBRT measure is an existential threat to our communities and your decision-making authority. Now, more than ever, cities must remain united and engaged.