Prop 26 – Eliminate Taxation through Fees

Proposition 26 – Requires that certain state and local fees be approved by two-thirds vote. Fees include those that address adverse impacts on society or the environment caused by the fee-payer’s business. Initiative constitutional amendment.

Measure Details:

  • Would expand the applicability of the 2/3rds vote requirement from taxes (funds used to pay for general public services) to all charges that are not directly related to reimbursing the government for services provided.
  • Raises the requirement from a majority to 2/3rds for tax measures that do not currently require 2/3rds, such as those that do not result in an increase in revenue.

Arguments For:

  • “Fees” are currently just used as hidden taxes. We should bring the vote requirements for fees up to the level for taxes.

Arguments Against:

  • This measure is primarily backed by industries that are subject to the fees discussed here, who are using this proposition to make it harder to impose fees on them for polluting (oil companies), health care externalities (tobacco companies), etc.

My Take:

Similar to my views on Prop 25, I think that the 2/3rds majority is not a way to ensure better governance, but rather a way to ensure less governance. To the companies backing this measure, less governance is good, because they are imposing externalities on society for which they don’t want to have to pay. But that just shifts the burden from the companies causing/encouraging external costs to the citizens of California.

Proponents of this measure will say things about how it allows slim majorities to railroad through taxes and fees, but like I said for Prop 25, we’ve already got a check on that. If the citizens of California don’t like what their legislators are doing, they can replace them, and the new majority can change things as they see fit.

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