California Proposition 4, the "Gann Limit" Initiative (1979)

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California Proposition 4, the "Gann Limit" Initiative, was on the November 6, 1979 statewide special election ballot in California as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was approved.

Proposition 4 was sponsored by Paul Gann and is sometimes referred to as the 'Spirit of 13' Initiative in reference to Proposition 13, which was approved the previous year. Proposition 4 was also supported by Jerry Brown who, a year later, ran for U.S. President on a platform as a fiscal conservative.[1]

Proposition 4 amended the California Constitution to:

  • Limit the growth in appropriations made by the state and individual local governments. The limit in the rate of growth is the percentage increase in the cost of living and the percentage increase in the state or local government's population.
  • Require state and local governments to return any funds to taxpayers in excees of the amount appropriated for a given fiscal year.
  • Require the state to reimburse local governments for the cost of complying with state mandates.

Election results

Proposition 4
Approveda Yes 2,580,720 74.3%


Proposition 98 (1988)

Because of the provisions of Proposition 4, in 1987, the state was forced to rebate $1.1 billion in excess revenue to taxpayers. That rebate led the California Teachers Association to place Proposition 98 on the 1988 ballot. Proposition 98 puts a legal floor under school spending and requires that excess Gann Limit money go into education, rather than into rebates to taxpayers.[1]

Proposition 111 (1990)

John Garamendi organized for and supported Proposition 111 in 1990 as a response to the Gann Limit.[2]

Constitutional changes

California Constitution

Proposition 4 added Article XIII B to the California Constitution.

Text of measure


The ballot title was:

Limitation of Government Appropriations. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.


The official summary provided to describe Proposition 4 said:

"Establishes and defines annual appropriation limits on state and local governmental entities based on annual appropriations for prior fiscal year. Requires adjustments for changes in cost of living, population and other specified factors. Appropriation limits may be established or temporarily changed by electorate. Requires revenues received in excess of appropriations permitted by this measure to be returned by revision of tax rates or fee schedules within two fiscal years next following year excess created. With exceptions, provides for reimbursement of local governments for new programs or higher level of services mandated by state."

Fiscal impact

See also: Fiscal impact statement

The estimate of net state and local government fiscal implications of Proposition 4 provided by the California Legislative Analyst's Office said:

  • "Indeterminable. Financial impact of this measure will depend upon future actions of state and local governments with regard to appropriations that are not subject to the limitations of this measure."

Path to the ballot

As an initiated constitutional amendment, Proposition 4 earned a spot on the ballot through the collection of signatures on petitions.

External links