On November 6, 1979, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 4, the "Spirit of 13" Initiative sponsored by Paul Gann. The proposition, which places Article XIIIB in the California Constitution, limits the growth in appropriations of both state and local governments to changes in the cost of living and population in order to control the spending levels established by California governments. Proposition 4 also attempts both to clarify the fiscal roles played by the various branches (legislative, judicial and executive) and levels (federal, state and local) of government, and to insure that any surplus funds are promptly returned to the people.

Proposition 4 is a sweeping measure which will dramatically affect both the state government and the vast majority of California's 6,600 local governments. Precisely how it will affect these governments, though, is not clear because the measure raises many questions and problems regarding how it is to be interpreted.