Here are my thoughts:
There are several propositions dealing with the budget, all making claims about needed revenues. I decided to take the raw budget numbers for comparison. Please note that our budget is similar this year to the budget in 2008-09. Fall of 2008 is when the stock market collapsed and that winter the housing market followed. The difference between this year’s (2012-13) budget and the 2008-09 is roughly $2 billion less or 1.4% less, however, education is roughly $7.3 billion less or 15.8% less. I dug through the budget line items looking for a meaningful cause like debt service, ect., but it appears to be a shift in priorities, a little here, a little there.
The question to ask yourself when examining the propositions proposing tax increases is whether we have a cashflow problem or a spending problem. While household budgets are not analogous to government budgets one can make the comparison in relation to priorities. Considering what this state has gone through, to only be single percentage points away from California’s best years, it is clear that priorities in our legislature and executive branches have shifted.
Proposition 30 - No
While the primary argument for this proposition is found in this year’s budgetary threat (trigger cuts) against education spending, we know that the state has more than enough revenues to support education at a much higher level. By making the threat to education while funding other programs at historically high levels the Governor and Legislature are forcing the voters hand. I believe capitulating to these threats without any reforms or limits is a slippery slope and in fact as voters we should be forcing the Governor’s and Legislature’s hand. Proposition 30 bolsters the general fund which in turn increases the Proposition 98 guarantee. However, these are general fund revenues and can be used for any budget line item. I’m not one to take promises or even intent language seriously as a term limited legislature and executive does not have the institutional knowledge to keep deals made prior to their elections. Nothing in this proposition will keep the Governor or Legislature from under-funding education again in favor of other programs, as we have seen over the past few years. Nor does this proposition do anything to increase government accountability or efficiency. If you are inclined to support education funding vote 'No' on 30 and 'Yes' on 38.
Proposition 31 – Leaning Yes
This is a government reform measure. One could argue that if you are inclined to vote for one of the tax increases you should also vote for this proposition as it has some budgetary reforms. I’m still examining the full impacts of this measure but right now am favorable to the arguments of the proponents.
Proposition 32 - Undecided
Six Of One, A Half Dozen Of The Other… Those impacted by this measure will just form “super-PACs.” May impact public employee unions but as evidenced in Wisconsin the unions will weather the storm, incorporate differently and move forward. In my opinion, not much will change other than some creative PAC naming.
Proposition 33 – Yes with hesitation
Ostensibly the same as Proposition 17 from 2010… This benefits Mercury, Progressive, and Liberty Mutual. This will hurt State Farm, Farmers, and Allstate who only break even on their car policies. This might impact your rates if you get a multi-line discount from a major that helps offset their higher car insurance rate. So this may hurt my State Farm discounts but allows the consumer to control their discounts, not the insurance company.
Proposition 34 - Yes
This really depends on your perspective and is not something that can be argued. I will be voting Yes because of my personal beliefs, lack of current implementation which results in a heavy fiscal burden (5 times of the cost of a general population prisoner) and prolonged times of unserved justice.
Proposition 35 - Yes
Heinous crimes deserving of higher penalties.
Proposition 36 - NO
Three-strikes already has provisions stating 2 of the 3 strikes are violent or serious felonies. Not sure I’m inclined to agree with the proponents that only 3-violent crimes should trigger the three-strikes law. Adding a third victim of violent crime is not a way to reform the system. Investment in rehabilitation programs would be.
Proposition 37 – NO!!!!!!!!
USDA’s 100% Organic label already indicates that the product is GMO-free. This is a proposition written by the same lawyer who wrote and made millions on litigation of Proposition 65. Spend the next week looking for Proposition 65 warnings and think if you have ever not frequented a business because of their Prop 65 warning. Coffee, wine, and other widely consumed products trigger the Prop 65 notice. This law would do the same and open up grocers and family-owned businesses to similar lawsuits. Also, as initially stated, there is a Federal Government label that indicates the food is GMO-free, California does not need a separate law.
Proposition 38 - Undecided
While I have not been convinced by the budgetary numbers, if you want to increase education funding this measure sends the increased tax revenues directly back to the programs as advertised. This is a broad-based tax so most tax-brackets share the burden, which is appropriate as education is a societal problem, not just that of the upper-income earners. This measure does a good job at getting the money to schools and children’s programs but still lacks any reforms that I believe are necessary. We know that more-money does not equal better results so changes are still needed to address the outlying issues.
Proposition 39 - No
The single sales factor formula for out-state employers is certainly something that is coming. However, the rate-payers spend about $1.3 billion annually on energy efficiencies, the legislature just set-forth a plan to spend up to $88 billion in Cap-and-Trade revenues for energy efficiency and offset projects. The California Energy Commission energy efficiency regulations have kept per capita power consumption in California flat since 1974. More money for energy efficiencies is a misnomer supported by an investor in these technologies.
There are better uses for the single sales factor and even Republican votes with the appropriate legislative deal. This measure is unnecessary and not the best deal for Californians in my opinion.
Borrowed from a friend who staffs a State Senator, “…the myth that there are no Republicans willing to discuss tax reform is utterly false. Exhibit A – Assemblymen Fletcher and Smyth voting for higher taxes on business (SSF). Exhibit B – The GOP 5 (6? 4?) from 2011 and the suite of proposals they offered in order to discuss the Governor’s tax proposals. Exhibit C – 2009 when the Legislature passed $13 billion in “temporary” taxes with the key votes of Republicans. With regard to the GOP 5 in 2011, it was the Democrats, not the Republicans, who walked away from the table. It was more important to the Democrat leadership to blame Republicans and try and win a 2/3 majority of the Legislature than it was to sit down in, albeit what was likely to be frustrating and difficult, negotiations. Strong opposition from organized labor for what was being proposed by both Governor Brown and the GOP 5 probably didn’t help either.”
Proposition 40 – Yes
Approves the new Senate districts that were drawn by the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission. Opposition has been withdrawn after losing their appeal in the State Supreme Court.