Let me begin with a thank you to Chris Emami and Chris Nguyen for the opportunity to post articles here, and with congratulations to them and all of their collaborators for their fine addition to the Orange County blogosphere.
With Election Day now less than a month away, even usually non-political folks have begun paying attention. And, as often happens, those non-political folks have begun reaching out to me as an elected official, and no doubt to the politically interested and attuned readers of this blog, for electoral information and advice. For your consideration, here is what I have been telling people who ask me for my positions on the eleven propositions.
Proposition 30: NO.
The governor’s tax proposal is unneeded and counterproductive. The government should not raise taxes in a struggling economy, and the Republican Assembly Caucus has explained how to preserve education and public safety spending without tax increases. (See the GOP Caucus’s www.cabudgetfactcheck.com website and my Orange County Register article: www.ocregister.com/articles/education-349007-cuts-budget.html.) While the governor claims Proposition 30 will eliminate budget cuts to the schools, there actually are no cuts, and this tax increase provides no new money. The General Fund budget spending this year is higher than last year’s spending. I made the point at a Budget Committee hearing and the chairman “reminded” me that the cuts are really cuts in the desired spending levels, not cuts from the prior year spending levels.
But there will be new money as this is a tax increase, after all. Where does it go? As to spending the increased taxes on schools, that’s just not what happens. (And that’s why Molly Munger’s Proposition 38 remains on the ballot with CTA and PTA support; those groups know the governor’s campaign is dishonestly claiming new money for schools when, in fact, there is none.) What really happens essentially is that the new money goes into the General Fund and then gets distributed to the schools ostensibly to pay for past deferrals. But an equivalent amount of money is cut from the schools, meaning that there is a net wash of funds. The extra money then goes to social programs. Note that the new so-called Education Protection Account created by this proposition is really just a new account in the General Fund. It is not an independent, untouchable, stand alone fund, and the Legislature can re-direct an amount equal to the new tax revenue every year into what ever programs it wants.
Proposition 31: NO.
A “Good Government” group calling itself California Forward qualified this proposition. It has a lot in it that could be good. In fact, the California Republican Party has officially endorsed it. However, I disagree with that recommendation after sitting through a Budget Committee hearing with two of the California Forward members and having had a chance to question them.
Some of what this proposition does will benefit the state (e.g., the two year budget proposal and performance based budgeting). But the testimony in the Budget Committee was pretty convincing that there are drafting errors, inconsistencies, and unintended consequences that can cause more harm than good. Unfortunately, I think this is like all of the prior efforts to reform government through the ballot box: Perhaps good ideas in theory but ultimately doing more harm than good. The real way to fix California is through the people we elect, rather than the gimmicks we try to impose on them once elected.
Proposition 32: YES.
Speaking of people we elect, this is the most important proposition on the ballot to fix California since it will have a real impact on actual candidate elections. It limits corporation and unions from taking money from employees for use in political campaigns without getting prior approval from the employee. That’s fair. No one should be forced to contribute to me, or against me, depending on where they work. It also makes sure that the corporations and unions aren’t buying votes by prohibiting contributions to elected officials. From personal experience I can tell you of the frustration in local government of going into labor negotiations knowing that some folks negotiating on behalf of the people are in office and beholden to the very union on the other side of the negotiating table. Proposition 32 will stop that misconduct.
Proposition 33: YES.
The idea behind this proposition is to increase competition in the insurance industry by allowing for the transfer between insurers of any “continuous coverage” discounts. I see no serious opposition to it and it likely will not have any significant effect on state finances.
Proposition 34: NO.
In Proposition 34, we see yet another of the routine efforts by so-called progressive activists to eliminate capital punishment in California. It takes an important tool away from law enforcement for no good reason. Proponents argue that the cost of the death penalty, especially in our challenging budget times, justifies its elimination. This is a thoroughly dishonest argument since it is those same proponents responsible entirely for driving up the costs.
The moral arguments for the death penalty are overwhelming in my opinion. But on costs alone, there is no compelling reason to support this proposition. The supposed “savings” are easily achievable in other ways if the opponents of capital punishment would agree rather than obstruct, and the proposition explicitly calls for the diversion of an additional $100 million from the already stretched General Fund budget. The Department of Corrections expresses concern about the increased housing costs for former capital prisoners. This is especially a problem now, making this idea particularly wrongheaded now, given the Federal Receivership of our prisons and the Federal Court requirement that we reduce prison population. Already we’re releasing dangerous prisoners through the governor’s ill-conceived and dangerous Realignment scheme from last year. While Proposition 34 may not result in death penalty prisoners themselves being released (though I believe that this is another step on the abolitionists’ long march towards eliminating life in prison for any crime), it will inevitably put pressure on the Corrections system to release other dangerous prisoners.
Proposition 35: YES.
This Proposition reduces human sex trafficking. Who opposes that? Well, other than the President and CFO of something called “Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education, and Research Project, Inc.,” and a woman named Starchild, who all signed the opposition in the ballot pamphlet. I’ll resist the urge to see if “Erotic Service Providers Etc.” has a web site. You never know what you might catch on the Internet.
Proposition 36: NO.
The progressive, soft on crime, crowd that brought you Proposition 34 on capital punishment is behind this effort to greatly undermine Three Strikes. Law enforcement strongly opposes it for good reason. Crime rates are down; that suggests Three Strikes works. Other than the DAs of San Francisco, LA, and Santa Clara Counties, it looks like the vast majority of responsible law enforcement professionals argue to keep Three Strikes in place. The California District Attorneys Association, the California State Sheriff’s Association, and various victims’ rights groups ask for a No vote.
Proposition 37: NO.
This initiative requires the labeling of some, but not all, supposedly “genetically modified” food. Estimates are that it will cost billions in both extra labeling and lost productivity to California farmers. It’s driven by politics, not science.
Proposition 38: NO.
One of the dueling tax increase ideas polluting this year’s ballot, Proposition 38 is the Molly Munger tax increase competing with the governor’s proposal, Proposition 30. It imposes much more in the way of taxes – the wrong thing to do in a struggling economy – but at least really will put that money into the schools unlike what Proposition 30 does.
Although this one has great motives, it unfortunately proposes the wrong solution. The proposition is flawed because Californians don’t need more taxation to provide services we can already pay for. The Republican caucus put forward a budget that proves we can.
See my reasons in Prop 30 or visit www.cabudgetfactcheck.com.
Proposition 39: NO.
Not only does Proposition 39 raise taxes substantially on a segment of our already beleaguered business community, but it plays with the tax code – the type of ballot box budgeting that is pernicious and a not insubstantial part of why California can’t really get a handle on its finances – by targeting California employers who happen to be based outside of California but still try to do business here. It is bad enough that we drive businesses away. We should not be targeting those that want to come back or otherwise still do business here. This is especially so as the money that will be generated by the tax increase in this proposition explicitly goes, in part, not to reducing the deficit, but to a new state bureaucracy promoting “clean energy.” It’s a job-killing trifecta for leftists: (1) liberal social engineering through the tax code, (2) aimed at business, (3) to support environmentalism.
Proposition 40: YES.
This is an easy one: Everybody urges a yes vote. Seriously. The No campaign has not just given up, but has actually switched sides.
A group of Republican senators worked to qualify this referendum so that the Supreme Court would fix the mess of the State Senate district lines made by the Citizens’ Redistricting Commission. Since the Court ignored the Constitution and failed to do what it was explicitly required it to do, the bad lines are currently in place. A No vote would not undo the lines for this election, but would just create an enormous amount of uncertainty for future elections. No one wants that, and once the Supreme Court issued its ruling, all sides now agree that a Yes vote is best. (For what it’s worth, because this is a referendum and not an initiative, the rules are reversed and a Yes vote instead of a No vote keeps the current law in place. Some press reports I’ve read have that backward.)
Donald P. Wagner
Assembly Member, 70th District
Candidate for Assembly, 68th District