A Ballot Full of Bonds: Line ‘Em Up and Shoot ‘Em Down

I’ve addressed three statewide propositions in previous columns.
This week’s column is a roundup of how I’m voting (and why) on the
remaining propositions.
I’ve addressed three statewide propositions in previous columns. This week’s column is a roundup of how I’m voting (and why) on the remaining propositions.

Proposition 1A would amend the state constitution to “protect the state sales tax revenues for transportation purposes from general-purpose use and require any funds borrowed to be repaid to the transportation fund.”

We all know how grabby the state can be with funds it’s charged with disbursing. Certain portions of gasoline taxes are earmarked for transportation projects, but when times get tough, the state often “borrows” those funds for other purposes.

Yes on Prop. 1A.

I’m voting no on every state bond measure:

– Prop. 1B – $19.9 billion in bonds for transportation projects

– Prop. 1C – $2.9 billion in bonds for low-income housing

– Prop. 1D – $10.4 billion in bonds for repairs to schools

– Prop. 1E – $4.1 billion in bonds for disaster preparedness and flood protection

– Prop. 84 – $5.4 billion in bonds for various water and park projects

Add it up – voters are being asked to approve a whopping $42.7 billion of debt. Make no mistake, that’s what bonds are. Bond ratings, like credit scores, are a measure of a municipality’s credit worthiness. With California’s low bond rating, there’s simply no way the state can afford any more debt.

These are all worthwhile projects, but I can’t help but thinking that with the possible exception of the housing bond measure, they all fall into the realm of “what state government is supposed to do with our tax money” and not into the realm of “it’s extra so we need to ask taxpayers for extra money.”

Legislators are supposed to set state spending priorities, and by neglecting these items, they’ve told us for years that they’re low on the list. If that’s not the case, then legislators need to re-prioritize by spending the state’s regular income on transportation, flood protection, disaster preparedness, school maintenance, and the like.

If legislators are looking for lower-priority items, I suggest they start by rolling back pay increases and fat benefit packages for themselves and for state workers, slashing the number of expensive and dubiously effective state commissions, and reducing the number of nonviolent offenders housed in state prisons, just off the top of my head.

No on Props. 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E and 84.

Prop. 86 would impose an additional $2.60 tax on each pack of cigarettes. I’m no fan of smoking and don’t mind the cigarette taxes already in place, but I really can’t justify adding more. I think we’re past the point of motivating people to quit smoking with more taxes.

Besides that, I don’t trust the fine print of this measure. Prop. 86 opponents point with understandable concern to antitrust exemption loopholes for hospitals.

No on Prop. 86.

Prop. 87 would impose a tax on state oil producers to the tune of $4 billion to fund alternative energy incentives, education and training. With their record profit reports, the oil companies are compelling target. And we need – for lots of reasons, including national security – to break our national addiction to oil.

But I don’t trust that Prop. 87 will accomplish those goals, given its lack of accountability for how its money is spent. And I don’t buy for a minute Prop. 87 proponents’ Econ 101-defying claim that oil companies could not pass the tax along to consumers.

No on Prop. 87.

Prop. 88 would impose a $50 per parcel property tax that has no expiration date. It sets a precedent by having the state directly collect a property tax. When even groups like the California Federation of Teachers and the California State PTA are urging no votes on an education tax, you know it’s a bad idea.

No on Prop. 88.

Prop. 89 would establish a tax on corporations to pay for publicly financed campaigns, and would impose contribution limits on candidates who privately finance their campaigns.

I don’t follow the logic of taxing corporations to pay for campaigns – why single out one kind of taxpayer? And I have serious First Amendment concerns about the initiative.

If voters don’t like wealthy candidates or well-financed negative campaigns, they have the ultimate power to stop them: Don’t vote for the rich candidates or candidates who use smear tactics.

No on Prop. 89.

Whether you agree or disagree with me, I hope you’ll do your sacred duty as a citizen by voting on Nov. 7.

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