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Report · January 2003

Fiscal Effects of Voter Approval Requirements on Local Governments

Pedro Cerdan and Kim Rueben

This report investigates the ways local governments in California have used the ballot box to raise taxes, assess fees, and pass bond measures. It notes sharp increases in school bond proposals, especially after 2000, when Proposition 39 lowered the voter approval threshold from two-thirds to 55 percent. It also shows how voter reaction to fiscal measures varies according to region, election timing, the type of measure proposed, and the service to be funded. Finally, it suggests that dedicated taxes for popular programs are more likely to garner voter support than a general tax, despite the fact that special taxes require a supermajority for approval. It also notes, however, that this approach may leave some traditional government services, such as libraries and parks, with inadequate funding.