The Howard Jrvis Taxpayers Association on July 5, 2018, filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court against the Bay Area Toll Authority and the California State Legislature claiming Regional Measure 3, approved by voters on June 5, 2018, as well as enabling legislation Senate Bill 595, should be invalidated. HJTA claims that SB 595 was proposing a tax not a fee and therefore 2/3 approval from legislators should have been required.
HJTA's suit also claims that Regional Measure 3 is also a tax proposal and should have required 2/3 approval by voters. The measure passed with 55 percent voter approval. You can access the court filing in the Superior Court of California website (you need to prove you are not a robot to view the case).
The lawsuit states that both SB 595 and Regional Measure 3 violate Section 3 of article XIII A of the California Constitution, which reads,
The State bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that a levy, charge, or other exaction is not a tax, that the amount is no more than necessary to cover the reasonable costs of the governmental activity, and that the manner in which those costs are allocated to a payor bear a fair or reasonable relationship to the payor’s burdens on, or benefits received from, the governmental activity.
Obviously the above paragraph does not describe RM3, since money taken from bridge crossers will be allocated to BART, ferry, bus, and bicycle riders.
The Mercury News carried a good article on the HJTA lawsuit on its July 9 edition. The article quotes interviews with Tim Bittle, Director of Legal Affairs Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay area Council, and Randy Renschler, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
Tim Bittle explained that Proposition 26, approved by voters in 2010, codified what is a fee and what is a tax. What may have slipped in as a fee prior to 2010 should not do so after Prop 26.
Jim Wunderman provided an interesting version of a “fair or reasonable relationship to the payor’s burdens on, or benefits received from, the governmental activity.”
Getting commuters and others out of their cars and into mass transit, including BART, Caltrain, local buses and ferries, provides a direct and powerful benefit to everyone who uses the region’s seven state-owned bridges.
Randy Renschler was quoted as saying,
We oppose their path of obstruction as our highways and transit systems must be maintained and improved in order to support the Bay Area’s high wage economy that benefits Bay Area families.
Perhaps Jim Wunderman and Randy Renschler are indeed trying to solve a problem, but doing so by ignoring laws and hurling invectives will bring on a free-for-all in the public arena. Opposition to RM3 does not represent a “path of obstruction.” It represents a desire for lawfulness.