Voter's Edge California Voter Guide
Get the facts before you vote.
Brought to you by
MapLight
League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
November 3, 2020 — California General Election
Invest in unbiased information

With your support, we can reach and inform more voters.

Donate now to spread the word.

Local

City of Berkeley
Measure HH - Majority Approval Required

To learn more about measures, follow the links for each tab in this section. For most screenreaders, you can hit Return or Enter to enter a tab and read the content within.

Election Results

Failed

27,175 votes yes (47.03%)

30,612 votes no (52.97%)

100% of precincts reporting (33/33).

Shall an ordinance increasing the Utility Users Tax on electricity and gas from 7.5% to 10%, with exemptions for low-income users, for general municipal services, including programs to equitably reduce local greenhouse gas emissions, and authorizing the City Council to increase the gas users tax by an additional 2.5%, with the total tax estimated to generate $2.4 million annually, until repealed by the voters, be adopted?

What is this proposal?

Measure Details — Official information about this measure

Impartial analysis / Proposal

CITY ATTORNEY’S IMPARTIAL ANALYSIS OF MEASURE HH

This measure was placed on the ballot by the City Council. 

The measure would increase the utility user taxes on electricity and gas from 7.5% to 10% and would authorize the City Council to further increase the tax on gas by an additional 2.5%. 

Utility user taxes are taxes on the use of utility services in the City of Berkeley and are generally measured as a percentage of the charge for the utility service.  The taxes are collected by the utility providers on the customers’ utility bills and remitted to the City.  This measure would not increase the rates of City’s utility user taxes on telephone or video services. 

PG&E has informed the City that currently it cannot collect utility user taxes on gas and electricity at different rates.  Consequently, although this measure allows the City Council to increase the tax on gas by an additional 2.5%, the City could not do this until PG&E is able to collect it. 

The measure would exempt individuals enrolled in the California Alternate Rates for Energy Program (CARE) or the Family Electric Rate Assistance Program (FERA) from both the gas and electricity user taxes. 

The measure would create the Climate Equity Action Fund and revenues from the increases in the gas and electricity user taxes may be placed in the fund, as well as any other funds designated by the City Council. 

The measure would rename the Energy Commission the Climate Action and Energy Commission and would direct the commission to provide non-binding recommendations to the City Council on how revenues in the Climate Equity Action Fund could be spent to address environmental justice, climate equity issues, and the impact of climate change on the City’s low income and most vulnerable populations.  At the City Council’s discretion, revenues in the Fund may be spent on the Commission’s recommendations or any other municipal purpose. 

The measure would also make technical changes to the utility user tax ordinances. 

The measure would impose a general tax that could be spent on any government purpose and shall pass if approved by a majority of the voters voting on the measure. 

Financial Implications 

The 2.5% increase in the gas and electric utility user taxes is estimated to generate $2.4 million per year.  Increasing the gas users tax a further 2.5% as authorized by the measure is estimated to generate an additional $730,000 per year. 

The above statement is an impartial analysis of Measure __. 

s/FARIMAH FAIZ BROWN Berkeley City Attorney 

Financial effect

CITY ATTORNEY’S IMPARTIAL ANALYSIS

Financial Implications 

The 2.5% increase in the gas and electric utility user taxes is estimated to generate $2.4 million per year.  Increasing the gas users tax a further 2.5% as authorized by the measure is estimated to generate an additional $730,000 per year. 

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against the ballot measure

Arguments FOR

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF MEASURE HH 

The pandemic and global warming are the twin crises of our lifetimes. Both have enormous economic impacts, disproportionately harm low-income and marginalized communities, and require collective action. 

Voting YES on Measure HH will speed up reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while reducing energy costs for thousands of Berkeley residents and kickstarting a green economic recovery.  

Berkeley made history by passing a Climate Action Plan, a Climate Emergency Declaration and a Fossil Free Resolution. But we are falling short on reducing global warming pollution and our plan needs funding. Measure HH could fund projects and programs that: 

  • Transition existing buildings to clean electricity;
  • Expand clean transportation alternatives such as shared electric vehicles, and bicycle and pedestrian improvements; and
  • Implement energy efficiency and resiliency measures for homes and businesses.

The Fund would prioritize equity and environmental justice by ensuring that low-income families, seniors, renters, and small businesses hit hardest by the pandemic realize lower energy costs and benefit from the green economy. 

Measure HH would: 

  • Eliminate the Utility User Tax on gas and electricity for the nearly 5,000 low-income Berkeley residents who enroll in California’s CARE or FERA programs, saving them an average of $160 per year, and
  • Increase the natural gas and electric portion of the utility users’ tax by 2.5%, at an average annual cost of $53 per year for other customers.

Together, these changes would raise about $2.4 million per year. Measure HH would create a panel of energy, equity, and climate experts to advise the City Council on how to make equitable and effective climate action investments. The measure also gives the Council the authority to later charge different tax rates on electricity and gas to promote clean energy. 

Please join the League of Women Voters, the Ecology Center, Green the Church, our local 350 chapter, and Sunrise Movement Bay Area in creating a greener, cleaner and more equitable community. 

VOTE YES on Measure HH. 

s/Melinda Howard-Herrarte Vice Chair, Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter, Northern Alameda County Group 

s/Jinky Gardner Action Director League of Women Voters Berkeley Emeryville Albany 

s/David Hochschild Chair, California Energy Commission (for identification purposes only), Resident of District 6 

s/Martin Bourque Executive Director, Ecology Center 

s/Dr. Ashley E. McClure Primary Care Physician; Medical Community Climate Organizer; Co-founder of Climate Health Now; Mom 

Arguments AGAINST

ARGUMENT AGAINST MEASURE HH 

This Measure is a DECEPTIVE FOREVER Tax increase.  Vote No! 

Due to COVID, many people have lost their jobs or businesses, and we are all unsure of the future.  This is a terrible time to add over $4million of TAXES that ALL citizens must pay.  Many of us are struggling to make our next mortgage or rental payment. Asking us to pay EVEN MORE in taxes is BAD.   

This tax revenue will be placed in the General Fund and can be spent on ANYTHING.  MAYBE the Council will vote to spend this tax on ‘greenhouse programs’ and maybe NOT.  MAYBE on ‘air pollution’ and MAYBE NOT.  Maybe for a year or two and maybe not. 

The City of Berkeley has a BAD Pension deficit problem.  This Tax promises public services that will instead be diverted to Berkeley’s ever-growing Pension.  These funds will just disappear in the General Fund to be forgotten by the public.  

The DECEPTIVE implication of this TAX is that this new increased tax is ‘modern’ and therefore GOOD.  This argument suggests that the existing, lower utility tax is ‘old fashion’ and needs to be modernized into a new higher tax.  Your opportunity to pay 30% more for the same utilities!  Buried in the fine print is a provision that allows the Berkeley City Council to increase the tax rate on natural gas ANOTHER 2.5% to 12.5% total rate for natural gas. 

Berkeley’s Overlords ask approval to decide for the public and later inform the public about what is best for the Overlords.  Don’t Vote away your Rights.   

Don’t Vote For ‘FOREVER’ Taxes -Ever.  Make the City return to the Voters to approve the City’s performance.  Make the City prove good accountability.  Cherish your rights as voters. Don’t just vote away your Rights.     

Vote No! 

s/Marcus Crawley President of Alameda County Taxpayers Association, Inc. 

s/Thomas Rubin Vice President of Alameda County Taxpayers Association, Inc. 

s/Damian Park Berkeley voter 

s/David Denton Berkeley voter 

s/Laura Menard Berkeley voter 

Replies to Arguments FOR

REBUTTAL TO ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF MEASURE HH 

VOTE NO for a tax that only “COULD” fund clean energy programs.  

This measure holds no assurance at all for discerning voters, who want their tax dollars spent wisely. If you care about climate change and low-income families, DEMAND that proponents put forward a special tax that, with a two-thirds vote, would REQUIRE the revenues are spent towards specific, useful purposes, not spent on who-knows-what.   

Even though Berkeley passed a Climate Action Plan, there is no implementation scheme.  Any funds available to be spent is always channeled to City payroll.   In fact, the City’s $28 Million expense increases in 2019 went to increased salaries and benefits according to their last Financial Report.  Why didn’t the funds go clean electricity or clean transportation or energy efficient homes? 

The Proponents want to ‘Prioritize equity and environmental justice.’  Good!  The Proponents can do that NOW without this Tax Increase.  The truth is, the City has insufficient capability to successfully implement the Proponents’ laundry list of complex, wide-ranging program ideas, many of which would duplicate state and utility programs.  

A smart and effective tax would have specific assurances and would make the Sierra Club and League of Women Voters and every Berkeley citizen proud.   

VOTE NO and tell Proponents to return after the pandemic with a specific plan that will use our tax dollars effectively and with oversight. With climate change and economic uncertainty, we cannot afford to waste money on well-intentioned, but half-baked ideas. 

s/Marcus Crawley President – Alameda County Taxpayers Assoc., Inc. 

s/Damian Park Berkeley Voter 

s/Orlando Martinez Berkeley Voter 

s/David Denton Berkeley Voter 

s/Laura Minard Berkeley Voter 

Replies to Arguments AGAINST

REBUTTAL TO ARGUMENT AGAINST MEASURE HH 

Berkeley voters and your City Council know that global warming is an existential threat demanding rapid, equitable, and collective investments. Together, we have increased energy efficiency, installed solar panels and created alternative, clean transportation.  But most current programs are underfunded and generally accessible only by the well-off. 

Now, by voting YES on Measure HH, you can help Berkeley make ambitious investments in a cleaner, healthier and safer future and help low-income residents share in that future while giving them immediate financial relief on their energy bills. 

Even in tough times, Berkeleyans are committed to the future. In the depths of the Great Depression, voters approved the creation of the East Bay Regional Parks District, a jewel that still protects the environment nearly 90 years later. Like then, now is the time to act. 

Opponents of Measure HH claim that the City Council will not spend these funds on climate mitigation, but this Council has firmly kept faith with the voters. 100% of the 2014 tax on sugary beverages, while deposited in the General Fund, was invested by the Council in public health and anti-obesity programs. Spending decisions on the soda tax were made based on recommendations from a panel with specific, relevant qualifications. A similar panel would be created for the Climate Equity Fund.  

After four years of anti-environment rollbacks from the Trump Administration, Berkeley voters must take urgent and equitable action to combat climate change. Please visit Berkeleyclimate.org and join the Sierra Club, the Ecology Center, the League of Women Voters, Green The Church, the Sunrise Movement Bay Area, Climate Health Now and McGee Spaulding Neighbors in Action.   

Vote YES on climate equity. Vote YES on Measure HH! 

s/Jesse Arreguín Berkeley Mayor 

s/Kate Harrison Berkeley City Councilmember, District 4 

s/Kathy Dervin Co-Coordinator, 350 East Bay 

s/Ben Gerhardstein Coordinating Committee Member, Walk Bike Berkeley 

s/Karma Smart Community Health Commissioner, City of Berkeley; Health Educator 

Use tabs to select your choice. Use return to create a choice. You can access your choices by navigating to 'My Choices'.

Please share this site to help others research their voting choices.

PUBLISHING:PRODUCTION SERVER:PRODUCTION