His ballot summary calls a multibillion-dollar tax hike a ‘change’

By San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board

One of state government’s worst traditions is once again on display: the partisan slanting of ballot language by attorneys general to either promote or undercut measures going before California voters.

State Election Code says “the Attorney General shall give a true and impartial statement of the purpose of the measure in such language that the ballot title and summary shall neither be an argument, nor be likely to create prejudice, for or against the proposed measure.” But the current attorney general, Xavier Becerra, rejects this in favor of putting his thumb on the scale. Backers of Proposition 22, which seeks to override Assembly Bill 5, the state’s contentious gig-economy law, sued Becerra on Wednesday. And his ballot summary for Proposition 15 — which would clear the way for a tax hike of up to $12 billion — obscures that very fact. The measure would exempt commercial properties from the protections against sharp property tax hikes contained in 1978’s landmark Proposition 13. Or change the tax assessment, as Becerra says. He wrote it, “Increases funding for public schools, community colleges, and local government services by changing tax assessment of commercial and industrial property.”

This is a shameful duping of voters courts can’t let stand. The work of writing ballot descriptions must go to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Little Hoover Commission or panels of retired judges now.

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