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The Bohemian's recommendations on state propositions

click to enlarge PROP BET Gov. Jerry Brown argues that Proposition 30 is the best way for California to confront the state's staggering deficit and avoid even greater cuts to public education.l
  • PROP BET Gov. Jerry Brown argues that Proposition 30 is the best way for California to confront the state's staggering deficit and avoid even greater cuts to public education.l

Yes on Proposition 30, No on Proposition 38

Propositions 30 and 38 both raise income taxes, diverting funds where they are sorely needed: schools. But they can't both go into effect—each contains a section stating that only the proposition receiving more votes can become law. So which to vote for? That's the tricky part.

In addition to a quarter-cent California sales tax increase, Proposition 30 taxes only high-income earners, starting with those who make over $250,000 a year. Proposition 38, on the other hand, taxes everyone making over $7,316 annually using a progressive scale from 0.4 percent on the lowest end to 2.2 percent for top earners.

If you think the top 1 percent should do its share, Proposition 30 has an edge. But Proposition 38 outlines exactly how those dollars would be spent in clearer and more convincing detail than Proposition 30. Supported primarily by Southern California civil rights attorney Molly Munger, Proposition 38 earmarks 60 percent of revenue to K-12 schools with 30 percent going to repay state debt and 10 percent going to early childhood education programs for four years. It tallies up funds on a per-pupil basis and requires local audits.

Spearheaded by Jerry Brown, Proposition 30 designates the creation of a special account for an unspecified majority of the amount in the general fund with the rest helping to balance California's overall budget during its seven-year lifespan. The money would then go to schools and community colleges for any educational purpose the institutions deem necessary.

While Proposition 38 seems like a better piece of legislation, Brown, playing the role of the no-nonsense dad in the financially broken home of California, will make good on threatened "trigger cuts" of more than $5 billion from California's already strapped education system if Proposition 30 doesn't pass. Although Proposition 38 is expected to raise roughly $10 million over its 12-year lifespan, if passed, the trigger cuts would still take effect. Voting for the little-known activist's measure at the expense of the highly publicized Proposition 30 isn't wise, and, with California's ranking of 47th in the nation in per-pupil spending, voting no on both isn't either. In this complex political morass, Proposition 30 emerges as the best choice.

No on Proposition 31

At more than 8,000 words, Proposition 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 Proposition 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 see fit, 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 counties in the state 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 Proposition 32

Proposition 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 Proposition 32 is primarily backed by the smear-ad-happy American Future Fund, a Republican group registered as a 501c(4), meaning that it can receive unlimited contributions and doesn't have to disclose its donors. And Proposition 32 does nothing to regulate Super PACs or other independent expenditure committees like the American Future Fund, 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 Proposition 32 would stop the ethically shady 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 Proposition 33

When California voters shot down Proposition 17 in 2010, they sent a message to Mercury Insurance CEO George Joseph that his deceptive initiative was bogus. Voters shouldn't get fooled again, as Joseph has returned with the same slightly altered proposal. The idea is to allow auto insurance companies the ability to offer "discounts" to drivers who can prove they've purchased car insurance continuously for five years. If that smells fishy, it's because it is, and Joseph has spent more than $8 million of his own money to deodorize it. Instead of discounting rates, Proposition 33 "will allow insurance companies to increase cost of insurance," according to the attorney general. The California 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 intelligence of the voters should.

Yes on Proposition 34

Proposition 34 would make California the 19th state in the country to abolish the death penalty. If passed, the proposition would eliminate the death penalty and replace it with life in prison with 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 a former San Quentin warden.

The opposition includes the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs' 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 led 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 Proposition 34.

No on Proposition 35

No one argues that stiffer fines and penalties for human traffickers aren't warranted. Unfortunately, the devil is in the details of this ballot measure. Ambiguous language and broad definitions would set up dangerous legal challenges to the rights of both victims and suspects, while at the same time putting burdensome new requirements on local law enforcement agencies that are already overwhelmed with tracking the state's 90,000-plus registered sex offenders. Consensual relationships between teenagers hovering just above and below the age of 18 could also fall into a legal gray area. Proposition 35 will likely pass, because its goal is noble, but the execution of the language leaves much to be desired.

Yes on Proposition 36

In 1994, California voters approved Proposition 184, widely known as the "three strikes law." Spearheaded by Mike Reynolds, father of 18-year-old Kimber Reynolds, who was murdered during a botched purse robbery, the goal of the law was to put violent career criminals behind bars for life. Unfortunately, far too many nonviolent offenders—who've received a third strike for crimes as innocuous as stealing a pizza—face life behind bars with little chance of parole.

Proposition 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, Proposition 36 isn't just a logical step, it's also a fair one.

Yes on Proposition 37

This is a no-brainer. Proposition 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 doesn't want to know what's in our food, especially when studies show that GMOs have created 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 Proposition 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 demanded the same.

Yes on Proposition 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. Proposition 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.

Proposition 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— Proposition 39 will not kill jobs. If anything, it will protect them. If none of this convinces you, just ask yourself: What does New Jersey know that we don't?

Yes on Proposition 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.

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