Endorsing the props
By now, most people who care will have made up their minds about the forest of state propositions clogging the Nov. 6 ballot. Be that as it may, what follows is our own assessment for whatever last-minute guidance it provides.
Proposition 30: Jerry Brown’s tax increases for education and local government.
For us, this is a no-brainer. A gridlocked legislature can’t find $20 billion in a $1.8 trillion economy to permanently balance the budget, so let the people decide or pay the consequences. If 30 doesn’t pass, education takes a catastrophic hit. Yes on 30.
Proposition 31: State budget process revisions.
Among its provisions, Proposition 31 establishes a two-year budget cycle and requires that funding sources or budget cuts be identified for all new programs costing more than $25 million. There are other elements, some a bit murky, at least one a bit troubling, but on balance it makes good budget sense. Yes on 31.
Proposition 32: Limits some political donations.
Proposition 32 purports to reduce “special interest” contributions to political campaigns but in truth it is a cynical effort to cut unions off at the knees while allowing corporate PACs license to buy campaigns. Applied evenly to all “special interests” it would be a great idea. It isn’t and it’s not. No on 32.
Proposition 33: Changes car insurance rates.
This is the second effort by George Joseph and his Mercury General insurance company to (behind a regulatory smokescreen) allow auto insurers (him) to unilaterally raise their rates. Proposition 33 is cynical self-interest. No on 33.
Proposition 34: Death penalty repeal.
There is no rational reason to maintain the death penalty and some good ones not to. It is demonstrably not a deterrent to violent crime, it costs the state of California $100 million a year in legal expenses and, in other states, innocent people have been executed. Life without parole is actually cheaper and an equal, if not greater, punishment. Many would argue the death penalty is barbaric and immoral. Yes on 34.
Proposition 35: Increases penalties on human trafficking.
This is, on face value, a no-brainer – human trafficking deserves severe punishment – but this measure is poorly written and could apparently place at risk any 18-year-old who shares sex texts with a minor. Because we’re not sure what it’s real impact will be, we’re opposed. No on 35.
Proposition 36: Revises the Three Strikes law.
The murder of Polly Klaas prompted California’s three-strikes law, and that was a good thing. But three strikes has been misapplied too often and there are too many people in state prisons with 25-years-to-life sentences for minor, non-violent crimes. We understand why police chiefs are opposed, but we still think it’s time for reform. Yes on 36.
Proposition 37: GMO food labels.
At one level, this is another no-brainer. Who doesn’t want to know if what they’re eating is genetically modified? But there are worrisome unintended consequences, unclear enforcement provisions and the specter of a flood of both well-intentioned and self-serving citizen lawsuits, some filed by opportunistic attorneys. It also puts most of the labeling burden on retailers, not producers. And if GMO foods are dangerous, what about antibiotics in livestock and pesticides on produce?
We’ve been tempted to support 37 only because Monsanto – the GMO giant – is against it, but that’s just an emotional reaction.
We’ve known the author of Proposition 37 for years. He’s a smart lawyer, but this isn’t a smart, or well-written, law. No on 37.
Proposition 38: Molly Munger’s education-only tax increase.
Early on, there was an expectation that Molly Munger – the multi-millionaire attorney behind Proposition 30 – would accede to Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30. She didn’t and that’s too bad. Proposition 38 would leave a $6 billion hole in the state’s general fund budget and trigger an automatic cut of $4.8 billion that would further decimate the state’s schools. Proposition 38 is well-intentioned but wrong-headed and dangerous. No on 38.
Proposition 39: Increases taxes on multistate businesses.
This proposition is the result of a last-minute, pick-your-favorite-tax formula deal offered by legislators in 2009 to California tech companies and other big corporations that allowed them to choose an option for computing state income tax. That option costs the state about $1 billion a year. Proposition 39 would reverse that tax break and restore the revenue. Much as we love Apple, we don’t think they need the money. Proposition 39 unfortunately requires that half the returned tax revenue be invested in unspecified “green energy” programs, but even with that provision, we think passage is important for the state’s fiscal health. Yes on 39.
Proposition 40: Approves already approved state senate districts.
This measure shouldn’t even be on the ballot and the Republican Party, which promoted it, no longer endorses it. A citizen’s commission drew new district lines, the state GOP didn’t like them and qualified an initiative to replace them, then realized it was too late to affect the 2012 election and backed away. Ironically, you need to vote yes to preserve the new districts. Yes on 40.