Court Rules Against Income-Tax Checkoff for State Elections

Times Staff Writer

The 4th District Court of Appeal Tuesday ruled that a conflict between two campaign finance reform measures approved last year means that Californians won’t be allowed to use a voluntary $3 checkoff on state income tax forms to help finance state legislative races.

The court’s three-judge panel unanimously ruled that the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), the state’s political watchdog agency, was correct when it determined that the conflict between provisions in Propositions 68 and 73--both approved by voters last June--precludes the voluntary income-tax checkoff.

The court’s ruling was prompted by a legal challenge from the University of San Diego’s Center for Public Interest Law.

The income-tax checkoff provision was considered to be the centerpiece of Proposition 68, which sought to cut down on the clout of special-interest groups by creating partial public financing for state legislative races, said Julianne B. D’Angelo, the USD center’s supervising attorney.


Checkoff Canceled

But Proposition 73, which establishes contribution limits on candidates for both state and local offices, creates an “irreconcilable conflict” by specifically outlawing the use of public financing for political campaigns, the panel held in its 19-page opinion.

And, since Proposition 73 garnered more votes of the two measures, it takes precedent and cancels out the income-tax checkoff provision of Proposition 68, the court held.

The court also disagreed with the USD center’s contention that the money set aside from the voluntary income-tax checkoff did not fall under the definition of “public moneys” because it is a tax credit and, as such, rightfully belongs to the taxpayer--not the state.


The judges said that all the $3 checkoff does is allow the taxpayer to make sure the amount is transferred from the state’s General Fund into a proposed Campaign Reform Fund.

“Since Proposition 68 merely allows the taxpayer to redirect $3 of the taxes owed from the General fund to a specific fund, the conclusion is inescapable that the measure involved public moneys,” Tuesday’s opinion says.

The 4th District Court of Appeal also declined to rule on the constitutionality of Proposition 73, since that question is pending before the 3rd District Court of Appeal.

D’Angelo said the USD center will appeal Tuesday’s ruling.