Amazon Tax Referendum Filed

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With the state budget not yet two weeks old, the first of what could be multiple challenges to its underpinning policies has been issued: a petition for the voters to overturn the new law requiring sales tax collection from online purchases.

A formal request for a referendum on ABx 28 was filed with the office of Attorney General Kamala Harris on Friday afternoon by lobbyist Charles Halnan.

Halnan lobbies for, among other companies, Amazon.

The state constitution requires backers of a referendum to gather, within 90 days, voter signatures equaling five percent of the total vote in the most recent gubernatorial election. That looks to be about 504,000 signatures once the petition is cleared by the AG.

Of course, one question raised during last year's debate over Proposition 25 was whether a budget-related bill like this one is eligible for a referendum. Before Prop 25, budget-related bills were generally seen as not eligible, given that they were approved by a supermajority and given that they took effect immediately. For those who would construe that to be synonymous with an "urgency" statute, the constitution would seem to say it's not eligible. But others will no doubt say that these aren't synonymous. A clarification by the courts may be needed on this one.

"This is a referendum on jobs and investment in California," said Amazon vice president Paul Misener in an emailed statement. "As Governor Brown has made clear, it is important to directly involve the citizens of California in key issues and we believe that Californians will want to vote to protect small business and keep jobs in the state."

The bill in question was pegged as being worth $200 million to the budget's revenue solution. And, as has been reported before, it may not be the last attempt to undo the fiscal plan signed by Governor Jerry Brown on June 30.

Two different groups of local leaders -- in San Diego and in Monterey -- today railed against the budget's plan to abolish and then re-create local redevelopment agencies, with San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders saying his community would hand over what amounted to "ransom" money to the state... but only until a lawsuit is filed in the near future.

No early reaction from Brown to today's news of a referendum attempt against the online sales tax bill.

I've uploaded a PDF of the referendum request, which hasn't yet appeared on the attorney general's website.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.
  • patrick

    I will not be using my Kindle or the Amazon web purchases until they restore the 10,000 California based companies for Amazon products.

  • LtDan

    I don’t think not using your Kindle is much of a protest…actually it is rather silly. How about signing the petition, abolishing the attempt to collect sales tax and then Amazon will restore the jobs? Sounds simple to me…

    I will be looking for a petition hopefully in the near future…

  • Bill Quick

    I am a retired San Francisco resident who, up until a few days ago, was making $300-400 a month via the Amazon Associates commission program, on which, of course, I filed and paid California income taxes. Amazon has discontinued the program in response to the unconstitutional Brown attempt to force Amazon to collect sales taxes on a state in which it does not have a presence.

    So the situation now is that Amazon is not collecting sales taxes for California, and the tens of thousands of Amazon Associates like me are no longer either earning money which we put into the California economy, nor are we contributing income taxes to the state.

    Amazon is not at fault here, the Democrats, including Jerry Brown, are for trying to illegally force Amazon to collect state sales taxes for the state. Perhaps most are unaware, but you, yourselves, are legally required to pay these taxes. If you are one of those claiming that Amazon has an “unfair advantage,” all you need to do is declare all your Amazon purchases on your state income tax filing, and pay the sales taxes you – not Amazon – owes at that time.

    If you aren’t doing so, you have no room to complain about Amazon not collecting the taxes you are legally obligated to pay.

  • Gene Marks

    I think it will be interesting to see how this all turns out when/if it goes to referendum in February… voters are notorious for cooling down about issues like these; will anyone still care enough by next year?

    Gene Marks

  • Alex

    @Bill Quick first of all it is the job of the company you are buying from to collect sales tax from the consumer. I don’t see why Amazon doesn’t charge the taxes to the consumer and then in turn bill the affiliate. If the affiliate is in California they need to follow the law. This isn’t difficult to do. You have a business now act like one Bill.