Voters will elect representatives and decide state and local governments’ fiscal futures in this year’s election. Here are Metro‘s endorsements for the propositions on the Nov. 6 ballot.—Editor
Yes on Prop. 30,
No on Prop. 38
Sacramento needs to get its special interest-compromised house in order, but the continuing fiscal crisis does not promote reinvention and efficiency. Instead, it raises tuitions, furthers the decline of the state’s educational system and reduces services to Californians.
Props. 30 and 38 both raise income taxes and direct the funds to schools. The proposition receiving the most votes becomes law.
In addition to a 1/4-cent California sales tax increase, Prop. 30 taxes 250k-a-year and above income earners. Prop. 38, on the other hand, taxes everyone making over $7,316 annually using a progressive scale.
Voting for the little-known activist’s measure at the expense of the highly publicized Prop. 30 carries risks. While Prop. 38 seems like a better piece of legislation, Governor Brown has promised to make good on threatened “trigger cuts” of more than $5 billion in cuts to California’s already strapped education system if Prop. 30 doesn’t pass. In this complex political morass, Prop. 30 emerges as the best choice.
No on Prop. 31
At more than 8,000 words, Prop. 31 attempts to refashion the way the state budgets in a complicated and potentially unilateral fashion. The ballot measure takes the budget cycle from one to two years and sets up the possibility that the minority party (i.e. Republicans) could hold the state hostage on passing revenue measures that require a 2/3 majority vote. This action would then hand over control to the governor to make budget cuts as he or she sees fit. Also in Prop. 31, there is the confusing Community Strategic Action Plan, which would allow counties, cities and school districts to break away from the state and allot money as they choose, rather than take direction from the state. Local control of funding is always enticing, but this option means more bickering, stagnation and disruption to services as locals duke it out for dollars. And while some counties are in relatively good financial standing, other could design their own demise with poor decisions. The best part of the ballot measure is that it would force legislators to make bills public three days before taking a vote. That could be done without such a cumbersome package of new laws.
No on Prop. 32
Prop. 32 sounds attractive, with its supporters’ resounding slogan of “Stop Special Interest Money Now!” The measure is dressed in bipartisan garb, stating that it will ban both corporate and labor contributions to political candidates. But Prop. 32 is primarily backed by the American Future Fund (AFF), a Republican group registered as a 501c(4), meaning that it can receive unlimited contributions and doesn’t have to disclose its donors. And Prop. 32 does nothing to regulate Super PACs or other independent expenditure committees like AFF, so the political moneymakers that most need reform are completely (intentionally?) overlooked.
There’s no question that the ties between politicians and special-interest money from across the political spectrum need to be loosened, and Prop. 32 would stop the practice of taking automatic deductions from employee paychecks, but a proposition that cripples campaign donations without touching independent expenditure loopholes will only encourage more nameless, reckless spending.
No on Prop. 33
When California voters shot down Prop. 17 in 2010, they sent a message to one-percenter George Joseph, CEO of Mercury Insurance, that his deceptive initiative failed the smell test. Voters shouldn’t get fooled again, as Joseph has returned with a warmed-over version of the same self-interested legislation. The idea is to allow “discounts” to drivers who can prove they’ve purchased car insurance continuously for five years. If that seems dodgy, it’s because it is, and Joseph has spent more than $8 million of his own money to pass the bill.
Instead of discounting rates, Prop. 33 “will allow insurance companies to increase cost of insurance,” according to the attorney general. The Department of Insurance has said that the initiative “will result in a surcharge” for many drivers, and it penalizes responsible drivers who for whatever reason had no need for auto insurance in the past—people who bike to work, become injured and cannot drive or live in cities with dependable public transportation. If Mercury Insurance’s terrible reputation doesn’t sink this initiative, the electorate’s intelligence should.
Yes on Prop. 34
Prop. 34 would make California the 19th state to abolish the death penalty. If passed, the proposition would eliminate the death penalty and replace it with life in prison and no chance of parole. The proposition’s foundation is built on a 2011 study that found capital punishment to be cost-heavy, with few benefits. Supporters include Ron Briggs, the man who wrote the original 1977 initiative that toughened the death penalty, and Jeanne Woodford, executive director of Death Penalty Focus and former San Quentin warden.
The opposition includes the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff’s Association and, surprisingly, more than a few inmates on San Quentin’s Death Row, who feel they’ll lose opportunities to appeal their sentences. Keeping in mind the flaws in the judicial system that have lead to convictions and executions of innocent people in the United States, as well as the costs of the death row system itself during a time of huge fiscal crisis, we recommend a “yes” vote on
No on Prop. 35
No one argues that better public policy to prevent human trafficking isn’t needed. Unfortunately, the devil is in the details of this ballot measure. Ambiguous language and broad definitions would set up dangerous challenges to both the rights of victims and of suspects, while at the same time putting burdensome new requirements on local law enforcement agencies that are already overwhelmed in tracking the state’s 90,000-plus registered sex offenders. Consensual relationships between teenagers hovering above and below the age of 18 could also fall into a legal gray area. Its clumsy construction presents both enforcement challenges and personal freedom issues serious enough to send Prop 35 back to the drafting table.
Yes on Prop. 36
In 1994, California voters approved Prop. 184, the “three-strikes law.” Spearheaded by Mike Reynolds, father of 18-year-old Kimber Reynolds, who was murdered during a botched purse robbery, the law’s goal was to put violent career criminals behind bars for life. Unfortunately, far too many nonviolent offenders—who’ve received a third strike for crimes like stealing a pizza—face life behind bars with little chance of parole.
Prop. 36 would reduce prison sentences for qualified third strikers whose current offense is a nonserious, nonviolent felony. Those whose previous crimes involve sex offenses, drug trafficking, homicide, firearms or weapons of mass destruction would be excluded from the changes. The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates savings to the state of $70 million a year in the beginning, and $90 million yearly after that. With solutions needed to fix California’s State Prison budget and address its huge rehabilitation crisis, Prop. 36 isn’t just a logical step—it’s also a fair one.
Yes on Prop. 37
This is a no-brainer. Prop. 37 would require labeling on food made from plants or animals changed by genetic engineering, or genetically modified organisms, known on Volvo bumper stickers statewide as “GMOs.” Who among us wouldn’t want consumers to know what’s in their food, especially when studies on GMOs have raised all sorts of health risks? Big Ag, that’s who. Monsanto, the world’s largest producer of genetically engineered seed, has spent over $7 million to oppose Prop. 37, and one has to wonder why a company would spend so much not to advertise but to hide its product from the public.
Dupont, Dow, Bayer and BASF round out the opposition’s other top five donors, arguing that passage will increase food costs. Voters shouldn’t fall for this threat from the chemical giants; the cost of a food label is a fraction of a cent. More than 40 countries already have laws requiring GMO labeling, and it’s time Californians demand the same.
Yes on Prop. 39
The state’s current business tax code practically begs companies to locate their headquarters and employees outside of California while selling goods and services within its confines. Prop. 39 would level the playing field and make all businesses in the state pay taxes through a fair, across-the-board method. Right now, companies can choose between this option or decide to pay half their taxes on revenue made in-state and the other half on workforce and infrastructure within the state. Prop. 39’s consistent tax code has already sprung up in larger states across the country, including Texas, Illinois and New Jersey. Extra revenue from the ballot measure’s passage would go toward improving energy efficiency in schools and government buildings the first five years, which would create jobs and set California on a more sustainable path. After that, the money would go into the state’s depleted general fund. Don’t be fooled—Prop. 39 will not kill jobs. If anything, it will protect them.
Yes on Prop. 40
The Republican Party didn’t get its way during the latest redrawing of district lines, and now it wants to confuse voters. Here’s the deal: Vote “yes” and the state saves an estimated $1 million by keeping the lines as they’re currently constructed. It’s really that simple.