Michael Coleman from CaliforniaCityFinance.com has authored an interesting report on reforming local finance when it comes to reversing local vote rules. Through court battles and the initiative process, state law has outlined that a tax imposed for specific purposes requires two-thirds approval and majority voter approval is required for any new or increased general tax. But from the local government perspective, do these requirements allow for optimum governance and do tax limitations trump all other concerns? Coleman explores the ramifications of switching to a two-thirds supermajority vote for general taxes. In the following excerpt he writes:
“It sounds nifty on its face to simply swap the requirement but certainly, anyone suggesting a higher vote requirement for general taxes has not really considered the implications of the notion. What if the vote requirement were swapped: two-thirds for general taxes, majority for special taxes? Here’s what local finance and governance would look like:
1. Local general tax measures would never be seen again. General taxes would be too difficult to pass at two-thirds approval. Any proposal for a local tax increase, extension or revision would be a majority vote special tax increase. There would be more of them and more would pass.
2. Local budgets would become increasingly balkanized. General funds would shrink. Special funds would proliferate. The choices for city councils and county boards of supervisors would shrink. The overall total spending of whole departments and programs would go on autopilot.”
Read what other conclusions he draws from the impact on local finance and governance here.