RM3 Funds Still In Limbo

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has decided to file a notice of appeal in its lawsuit against Regional Measure 3.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has decided to file a notice of appeal in its lawsuit against Regional Measure 3. The decision represents an abrupt about-face for the group, which just a week before filing said it had decided not to fight an April court ruling that dismissed its lawsuit.

 

Tim Bittle, legal affairs director for the Jarvis group, said that his group wants to see what happens with a second lawsuit filed by East Bay businessman Randall Whitney before it decides whether to proceed with an appeal.

 

At stake in the legal maneuvering are billions of dollars for Bay Area transportation projects, money that would flow from a series of toll increases on seven regional bridges that were authorized by 55 percent of the region’s voters in the June 2018 elections.

 

The Jarvis group’s lawsuit, as well Whitney’s, seeks to block the toll hikes on the grounds that they are actually tax increases masquerading as fees and thus subject to the two-thirds voter and legislator approval requirement under Proposition 13.

 

In early April, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan P. Schulman rejected that argument and dismissed the Jarvis lawsuit, saying a toll increase to gain entrance to or use state property (like state bridges) is not a tax. Bittle previously had said his reluctance to appeal was based on concern that an adverse trial outcome—with a published appellate decision—might set a precedent for other tax litigation.

 

A notice of appeal does not necessarily mean that an appeal against the judge’s ruling will actually proceed to a decision. But the plaintiffs had only a 60-day window after the ruling to file their notice, so this effectively keeps the lawsuit alive for now.

 

Bittle said as much, noting that the decision “was made to keep our options open depending on what happens with Randall Whitney’s case.”

 

A hearing date has been set for May 23 in Whitney’s lawsuit, also before Judge Schulman. Asked whether the Jarvis group would proceed with the appeal if Whitney’s case progresses, Bittle said: “I don’t know. It just means we’re keeping our options open.”