Voters pass Prop. 26, requiring a 2/3 legislative vote to raise fees
California voters approved a measure Tuesday that will make it harder for the Legislature to raise fees, according to early vote tallies. The passage of Prop. 26 could empower the Republican minority in the state Legislature and make it more difficult for the state to balance its books on the backs of alcohol, tobacco and other companies that have been targets of legislative fees for decades.
The measure may also blow new holes in the state budget, repealing fees that were passed by the Legislature in 2010.
Under current law, increasing taxes requires a two-thirds vote by the Legislature. With Sacramento paralyzed by partisan gridlock and Republicans firmly opposed to any tax increases, Democrats in control of the Legislature have instead passed a variety of fees, which require a simple majority vote.
A fee is a levy that is used for a specific purpose, such as a user fee for state parks or fees on chemical pesticides that go toward funding the state's pesticide control agency. A tax may be used for the state's general operating costs, to pay for things like public education, prisons and health services.
The state's business community has railed against these fees for years. And with Prop. 26, they sought to erase the semantic difference between fees and taxes -- requiring the same two-thirds vote on fees that currently exists for taxes. The measure effectively expands the definition of a state tax, requiring a two-thirds vote for any new surcharge or levy, even if the money is earmarked for a specific purpose.
-- Anthony York
Photo credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press