Sunday, October 08, 2006

Voting on California Ballot Propositions

I am often asked by clients, friends and relatives for recommendations on how to vote on ballot initiatives. In the upcoming general election, California voters will be asked to make decisions on 13 different initiatives. My goal in this article is to provide a brief summary of each law and my recommendation on each measure.

Bond Issues:
As a general rule, I vote no on nearly all bond issues. It is all too common for the legislature to recommend a bond issue when dealing with a perceived problem. Instead of paying to repair things out of the current budget, a bond issue means that the state is borrowing the money and pledging our future taxes dollars as collateral on the loan. As any consumer knows, there is only so much that one can borrow before the cost of the debt service becomes a burden on future budgets and causes budget cuts.

Proposition 1A: This measure is designed to protect gas tax revenues dedicated to the Transportation Infrastructure Fund (created in 2002) from being used for any purpose other than transportation improvements. The proposal places limits on the ability of measure would also prohibit the Legislature from diverting funds and requires repayment plus interest within three years. This measure is designed to prevent revenue from a previously approved bond for other projects or other budgetary needs. In order to protect the integrity of this previously approved bond measure, I recommend a "yes" vote.

Proposition 1B: The bond proposal would provide $19.9 billion to be used for highway improvements, public transit, air pollution reduction, and port security. I believe bond issues are a sign of bad fiscal planning and are used too much. I recommend a "no" vote.

Proposition 1C: This bond proposal would provide $2.8 billion to be used for housing and emergency shelter for battered women, low-income seniors, and homeownership assistance. While the goal is admirable, the money for this project can be obtained without borrowing. I recommend a "no" vote.

Proposition 1D: This bond proposal would provide $10.4 billion to be used for kindergarten-university school repairs, overcrowding reduction, and earthquake safety. This is a "one size fits all" bond proposal. The need for this type of bond can be decided and approved at the local level, so I recommend a no vote.

Proposition 1E: This bond proposal would provide $4.09 billion to be used for disaster preparedness and flood prevention. The money can for this project can be obtained without borrowing money. I recommend a "no" vote.

Proposition 83: Commonly know as "Jessica's Law", this measure is designed to improve monitoring and increase penalties for convicted sex offenders. Some data suggestions that as many as one quarter of registered sex offenders fail to keep their addresses up to date, effectively dropping out of sight. The new law would increase penalties for violent and habitual sex offenders and child molesters, restricts how close to schools and parks they may live, and requires lifetime Global Positioning System monitoring for felony registered sex offenders. I recommend a "yes" vote on this measure.

Proposition 84:
This is another bond proposal that would provide $5.4 billion to be used for water quality and supply, safety, flood control, and state and local park improvements. I believe the state legislature should go back to the "pay as you go" approach and better prioritize how it spends our tax dollars. I recommend a "no" vote on this measure.

Proposition 85:
Under California law, a minor child can obtain an abortion without parental permission. Proposition 85 would not require parental permission, but it would require the physician to notify at least one parent with certain exceptions. A doctor would not be required to give parental notification in the case of a medical emergency or an appropriate court order. Proposition 85 would also impose a 48-hour waiting period before the procedure could take place in order to provide for a girl and her parents to discuss the planned abortion and obtain counseling. I do not believe any medical procedure should be allowed on a minor child without parental permission unless a true emergency exists. This measure is a step in the right direction, so I recommend a "yes" vote.

Proposition 86: This measure would add a $2.60 per pack tax on cigarettes to support hospitals, health programs, smoking prevention plans and tobacco regulation. This is yet another new tax. Less than 10% of the tax revenues go toward helping smokers quit or keeping kids from starting. The largest share, almost 40%, goes to hospitals, many of which are funding the campaign for the new tax. I recommend a "no" vote on this measure.

Proposition 87: This measure would creates a 1.5 percent to 6 percent tax (depending on oil price per barrel) on producers of oil extracted in California to fund a $4 billion program to reduce petroleum consumption by 25 percent. This is essentially a tax increase to encourage reduced gas consumption. Gas prices are already too high and it would damage California's economy and drive more businesses away, so I recommend a "no" vote.

Proposition 88: This measure would create a $50 tax on each real-property parcel, excluding certain elderly and disabled homeowners, to fund K-12 education. This measure would open up yet another way to circumvent Proposition 13 and there are no protections or controls on how the money will be spent. I recommend a "no" vote on this measure.

Proposition 89: This measure would impose a .2 percent income-tax increase on corporations and financial institutions to fund political campaigns and would imposes new limits on campaign contributions and creates eligibility requirements for state elective offices. I have never been a fan of publicly funded campaigns and the measure appears to impose unconstitutional limits on campaign spending. I recommend a "no" vote on this measure.

Proposition 90: This measure was in response to a controversial decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that gives the states broad authority to take private property for private economic development using the power of eminent domain. This measure would bar local governments from using the notion of increased tax revenue to condemn private property and turn it over to private developers. The measure would also increase payments to property owners who experience "substantial economic loss" as a result of new government rules and regulations. I have never supported the idea of using government power to take a private property unless it was for a true public purpose such as roads, libraries or police and fire stations. I believe this measure is a step in the right direction, so I recommend a "yes" vote on Proposition 90.

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