The Long Beach City Council could soon vote to formally oppose a state ballot measure that would make it harder to impose taxes and fees in the future.

Meanwhile, though, the council will wait to chime in on another proposed law that would raise wages for health care workers statewide.

The council’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee met Tuesday and was updated on the two issues, with the committee voting to recommend opposing the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act initiative, a ballot initiative that many believe would reduce both the state and local governments’ ability to collect revenue and would ultimately shrink budgets.

The issue has qualified for the November 2024 ballot and would require state lawmakers to pass new taxes with two-thirds of both houses before submitting the tax to voters, and it would require a majority of the state to also vote in favor before the taxes could take hold.

Locally, it would require “special taxes” to pass by a two-thirds vote and could force cities to prove that fees and fines it charges are actually based on how much it costs the city to provide a service.

Long Beach Government Affairs Manager Tyler Bonanno-Curley told the committee Tuesday that while the city sets its fees at the cost of providing the service, the initiative would set a “higher bar” and the city could have to prove it’s the lowest actual charge it needs to assess.

“It could open up legal challenges to existing fees,” he said.

The initiative is being backed by groups like the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which says that it would provide a new level of transparency and eliminate a “loophole” created by the courts that allow for initiatives circulated by citizens to circumvent the two-thirds threshold for special taxes. Those initiatives only need a majority of voters to support them to pass, and the group says it enables special interest groups to “pretend to be average citizens.”

Bonanno-Curley said that if the initiative passes, it could lead to public service reductions in the city because it would make it much harder to raise revenue to fund them as well as limit the city’s ability to finance projects.

But while the committee voted unanimously to recommend the full council oppose the initiative, it took a wait-and-see approach on a proposed state bill that would raise the minimum wage for health care employees to $25 per hour.

Senate Bill 525 is still working its way through Sacramento, but if it’s approved it could raise wages for all employees of health care facilities, including publicly owned ones, to $21 by June 2024 and then $25 by June 2025, with annual increases tied to the consumer price index going forward.

The City Council had approved by ordinance a $25 minimum wage for private-sector health care workers in the city in August 2022, however, that vote was challenged by the health care industry, which collected enough signatures to qualify the issue for a referendum vote in March 2024.

There are a few meaningful differences between the current version of the bill and what Long Beach voters will decide in March.

If the state bill passes, the state’s labor board would be in charge of enforcing the new minimum wage for health care employees in the state. Under the Long Beach ordinance, the city would be the enforcement agency, and city officials estimated that it could cost Long Beach about $1.2 million annually.

Bonanno-Curley told the committee that there is another element that could add confusion and may actually result in Long Beach health care workers having the highest minimum wage in the state if the bill passes and Long Beach voters affirm the City Council’s vote from last year.

Because Long Beach health care workers would reach $25 per hour first, they would be subject to annual cost of living increases a year earlier and could outpace the rest of the state’s health care workers’ wages going forward.

Long Beach, Los Angeles and other cities in the region will have similar referendum votes on health care minimum wage increases next year.

The committee voted Tuesday to hold off on asking the full council to take a position on the bill because it could change over the next few weeks during the appropriations process and it could become clearer how the bill would interact with the local law if they both pass.

The committee could meet as soon as next month to take up whether to oppose or support the health care minimum wage bill and refer it back to the full City Council for a full vote.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.