Marx seeking sales tax renewal end-run around law
April 15, 2014
By KAREN VELIE
San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx is seeking to use an appellate court ruling to forego the two-thirds council vote requirement to place a tax increase on the November ballot.
In 1986, California voters passed Proposition 62, which requires a two-thirds vote of a city council or county board of supervisors to place a general tax on the ballot for voters to approve. In the city of San Luis Obispo, 55.42 percent of voters said yes to Proposition 62 and countywide 63.83 percent of voters said yes.
At an April 1 council meeting, Marx, Councilman John Ashbaugh and Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson expressed support for renewing Measure Y, the city’s half-cent sales tax, while Council members Dan Carpenter and Kathy Smith expressed opposition. A 4-1 or 5-0 vote has been required in the past to place tax increases on the ballot.
Marx, who called Carpenter and Smith obstructionists, asked city attorney Christine Dietrick to look into the city of San Leandro having the ability as a charter city to place tax increases on the ballot with a majority vote. A 2001 ruling by the California Court of Appeal determined the two-thirds requirement does not apply to charter cities which have municipal codes that require a majority vote rather than the two-third state requirement.
San Leandro’s city charter specifies that only a majority vote of the city council is required rather than a two-thirds vote to place sales tax increases on the ballot.
Dietrick has determined the council can likely place the Measure Y renewal on the ballot with a majority vote based on the San Leandro case, according to the Tribune.
Nevertheless, the city of San Luis Obispo’s adopted municipal code section 3.15.020 states that in compliance with California Government Code Section 7285.9, the city requires that “two-thirds of the council and a majority vote of the electors voting on the measure, vote to approve the establishment of this new general purpose revenue source at an election called for that purpose.”
Smith said she does not trust the city to use general-purpose sales tax money on capital improvements as promised, though she would support a specific use tax. In recent months, city staff has struggled to identify capital improvement projects the city has completed using Measure Y funds.
At tonight’s city council meeting, Marx is likely to seek the inclusion of a Measure Y renewal on the May 6 agenda under the assumption the council no longer requires a two-thirds vote.
San Luis Obispo based attorney Stew Jenkins, who successfully sued the city over illegal treatment of the homeless, said he is analyzing the issue and considering requests to get involved.