55% Vote for General Obligation Bonds and Special Taxes


Currently, the California Constitution requires a two-thirds vote at the local level for both General Obligation (G.O.) bonds and special taxes, regardless of what the city, county, or special district proposes to use the funds for.

ACA 1 creates a new constitutional vote threshold of 55 percent for both G.O. bonds and special taxes, when proposed specifically for the construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or replacement of public infrastructure or affordable housing, or the acquisition or lease of real property for those purposes. The bill also specifies requirements for voter protection, public notice, and financial accountability.

ACA 1 defines “public infrastructure” to include (but not limited to) projects that provide the following:

  • Water or protect water quality, sanitary sewer, treatment of wastewater or reduction of pollution from storm water runoff;
  • Protection of property from impacts of sea level rise.
  • Open space, parks and recreation facilities.
  • Improvements to transit and streets and highways.
  • Flood control.
  • Broadband internet access service expansion in underserved areas.
  • Local hospital construction.
  • Public safety buildings or facilities and equipment.
  • Public library facilities.

In practice, local officials propose a local bond or special tax, and then the voters in that community decide whether they support the idea or not. The voters would still need to overwhelmingly (with 55 percent of the vote) support a bond or special tax in order for it to be approved. ACA 1 will level the playing field and create parity between school districts and cities, counties, and special districts, so that all local governments have a viable financing tool to address community needs.

However, local school districts must only achieve 55 percent voter approval for school bonds to fund the construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or replacement of school facilities, including the furnishing and equipping of schools, or the acquisition or lease of real property vote (Proposition 39, 2000).

From 2001 to 2013, over 2,200 local revenue measures have been placed before voters concerning school, city, county, or special district taxes or bonds. Majority vote tax measures have proven to be much more likely to pass, while just half of two-thirds vote measures succeeded. School bonds with a 55 percent have been the most successful, with four out of every five passing. In contrast, just half of two-thirds vote measures succeeded. A 55 percent voter threshold for special taxes would have made a dramatic difference. Nearly 80 percent of all two-thirds supermajority measures garnered more than 55 percent of “yes” votes.

Cities, counties, and special districts face numerous challenges in securing funding for important local public infrastructure projects. ACA 1 would provide viable financing options while providing robust public accountability.  If ACA 1 should pass both houses of the Legislature with 2/3rds vote, it would then go before the voters in 2020 in order to take effect.

Take Action

Please help CSDA in getting this bill signed into law by sending in a letter of support. Should you have any questions about the bill, please contact CSDA Legislative Representative Anthony Tannehill at anthonyt@csda.net.