For about 100 years, California’s local governments generally could raise taxes without directly securing their residents’ consent. Beginning in 1978, the state’s voters amended the California Constitution several times to require that local government tax increases be approved by local voters. Recently, the Legislature has shown interest in exploring changes to voter-approval requirements for local taxes. Several proposals to place changes before the voters have been introduced during the current legislative session. This report was developed to provide context for discussions about the state’s voter-approval requirements. We do not offer any suggested changes to these requirements. The report is divided into four sections:
- Local Government Basics. This section provides a brief introduction to local governments in California.
- Voter-Approval Requirements for Taxes. This section summarizes the state’s existing system of voter-approval requirements for local taxes.
- How California’s Requirements Evolved. This section explains how the state’s complex voter-approval system evolved.
- A Look at Election Results. This section reviews outcomes of local tax elections over the last 15 years.