California Proposition 4 to Limit Growth in Governmental Spending

In 1978, the voters of California passed Proposition 13 to limit the power of state and local governments to increase taxes. The next year, the voters passed Proposition 4, called the "Spirit of 13" to limit growth in governmental spending. (San Francisco Taxpayers Assn. v. Board of Supervisors (1992) 2 Cal.4th 571, 574 7 Cal. Rptr. 2d 245, 828 P.2d 147.) Proposition 4 imposed government spending limits and required the state to reimburse local governments for the costs of complying with state-imposed programs. (Cal. Const., art. XIII B, 6 (hereafter, article XIII B, section 6); County of Sonoma v. Commission on State Mandates (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 1264, 1282 101 Cal. Rptr. 2d 784.) We use the term "local governments" to refer, generally, to cities, counties, school districts, and other governmental entities that may be entitled to reimbursement for state-mandated costs. Subdivision (a) of article XIII B, section 6 provides: "Whenever the Legislature or any state agency mandates a new program or higher level of service on any local government, the State shall provide a subvention of funds to reimburse that local government for the costs of the program or increased level of service ... ." Section 6 grants three exceptions to this general rule: (1) mandates requested by the local government, (2) legislation concerning crimes, and (3) mandates implemented prior to January 1, 1975. (Art. XIII B, 6, subd. (a).) The Legislature responded to Proposition 4 by creating the Commission to determine whether reimbursement was required for new state mandates. Local governments may file test claims, which the Commission adjudicates. (Stats. 1984, ch. 1459, 1, p. 5113; Gov. Code, 17500 et seq.; County of Fresno v. State (1991) 53 Cal.3d 482, 484 280 Cal. Rptr. 92, 808 P.2d 235.) Decisions of the Commission are subject to judicial review under Code of Civil Procedure section 1094.5. (Gov. Code, 17559, subd. (b).) In the same legislation that created the Commission, the Legislature directed the Commission not to find local government costs reimbursable if, among other things, "the statute or executive order imposed duties which were expressly included in a ballot measure approved by the voters in a statewide election" (ballot measure mandates). (Stats. 1984, ch. 1459, 1, pp. 5113, 5118, 5119; Gov. Code, 17556, former subd. (a)(3), (6).) Applying article XIII B, section 6, and Government Code section 17556, the Commission resolved several test claims relevant to this action (and described below) involving ballot measure mandates. In those decisions, the Commission found costs reimbursable to the local governments because the legislation imposed costs exceeding the ballot measure mandates (not expressly included in a ballot measure). In 2005, the Legislature made changes to Government Code section 17556 and directed the Commission to "set-aside" some of its test claim decisions and to "reconsider" other test claim decisions. (Legis. Counsel's Dig., Assem. Bill No. 138 (2005-2006 Reg. Sess.).)