California's Nov. 2 ballot, as usual, is packed with initiatives put to a vote via petition campaign. With armies of circulators stationed at shopping centers around the state, gathering the more than 400,000 signatures necessary to qualify a petition for the ballot is just not that difficult.
And, as usual, many are put on the ballot by special interests
looking to make an end run around Sacramento's legislative process.
Given the partisan gridlock that has of late paralyzed the
Legislature, this is at times warranted. It certainly was in the case
of recent measures aimed at reforming primary elections and the way
legislative districts are drawn.
But often such initiatives are not warranted and stretch the law
beyond what is reasonable or prudent. Such is the case with the
propositions below, all of which deserve rejection.
Proposition 22 - It is certainly tempting to vote yes on this
measure, which purports to end state "raids" on funds that have
historically gone to counties, cities and other local government
Previous ballot initiatives have restricted the state's ability
borrow cash and required repayment with interest. But Proposition 22
forbids borrowing gas tax, property taxes or redevelopment funds and,
according to the nonpartisan legislative analyst, could cost the state
several billion dollars annually and jeopardize needed state services.
Along with county and city officials, we're annoyed and
disappointed that the state of California chooses to cover its budget
shortfalls by "borrowing" funds from local governments. However, during
this on-going recession and a time of huge state deficits, this
activity is preferable to a significant tax increase or a major
reduction in essential state services. Prop 22 limits the flexibility
the state needs to balance its budget.
Yes, more protection for local funding is needed, but 22 goes too far.
Proposition 24 - Here is another measure aimed at repealing a law that has yet to take effect.
During 2008 and 2009 negotiations, the governor and the Legislature
agreed to a compromise state budget that included tax breaks for
California businesses, to take effect in 2011. Given the gridlock that
over the past several years has stalled our lawmakers, it's a wonder
two-thirds of them could agree on anything.
Yet, although the recession shows few signs of easing and statewide
employment is at a painful 12 percent, the California Teachers
Association-sponsored Proposition 24 would eliminate the tax breaks
before they are given a chance.
While arguments can be made that the breaks are too generous
(adjustments could be made legislatively), totally scrapping them could
put California at a competitive disadvantage at a time when attracting
new business is of paramount importance.
Proposition 24 deserves a No vote.
Proposition 26 - When is a government fee not a fee?
"When it's a tax, and virtually all fees are taxes," is the answer
this initiative would give. And because 26 would transform a myriad of
state fees into taxes, a two-thirds' vote would be needed to raise any
of them or to enact new ones.
This is proposed for what is already among the most difficult
states in the union in which to levy taxes: A two-thirds' vote of the
Legislature is necessary to raise state taxes and a similar approval by
local voters is needed to pass new, specific-purpose taxes.
Now, when raising cash to balance budgets is particularly tough, 26
would change regulatory fees - such as those collected from oil
companies to fund oil-collection and recycling programs and from waste
disposal firms to clean up toxic sites - to taxes.
Although lawmakers have occasionally played fast and loose with the
tax-fee distinction, this overreaching measure would do more harm than
good and should be rejected.