LWVAV: Pros & Cons of Ballot Propositions

Proposition 30

Should the California Constitution be amended to (a) temporarily increase sales and personal income tax rates; (b) guarantee certain revenue transfers to local governments; and (c) eliminate state funding of certain mandates to local governments?

Prop 30 would increase the sales tax rate by one-quarter cent (0.25%) for calendar years 2013-2016.  It would also increase the maximum 9.3% PIT rate in stages up to 12.3% (on incomes of $500,000 for single filers, $1,000,000 for joint filers) for calendar years 2012-2018. The existing additional 1% tax applicable to annual income over $1 million (with the revenue dedicated to mental health services) would continue to apply. The new revenues would provide generally unrestricted K-14 educational funding, and also benefit the General Fund. Prop 30 would require that the state continue to fund the 2011 transferred programs, and that this funding be excluded from the calculation of the revenues going to schools under the Prop 98 minimum education funding guarantee.

PRO: Prop 30 is the only initiative which protects school and safety funding and addresses the state’s chronic budget mess. It is the only initiative which establishes a guarantee for public safety funding in our state’s Constitution. Prop 30’s taxes are temporary, balanced and necessary for vital services. The state would increase personal income taxes on high-income taxpayers for seven years and sales taxes for four years. The new tax revenues would be available to fund programs in the state budget.

In years when both tax increases would be in effect (2012-13 through 2016-17), annual revenues would increase by approximately $6 billion; in other years the revenues would be lower due to the phasing in/out of the tax increases. As noted, this year’s budget already relies on the Prop 30 revenues to fund various state programs, including particularly K-14 educational funding.  Prop 30’s revenues would also be available to help fund the state budgets through 2018-19. If Prop 30 fails, the 2012-13 budget plan requires that the state’s spending be reduced by $6 billion, almost entirely in K-14 education and public universities. These reductions could result in shorter instructional years and lower community college enrollment, as well as greater deferral of Prop 98 funding for K-14 education.

Supporters of Prop. 30 include Governor Jerry Brown, CA Democratic Party, CA Teachers Association and the CA State Sheriffs Association.

CON: Prop 30 is a shell game; as there are no assurances that tax increases will actually benefit classrooms.

Politicians and special interests want to continue their out-of-control spending in Sacramento, but not make meaningful reforms.

The Governor, politicians and special interests are threatening voters by imposing trigger cuts if the proposition does not pass. Prop. 30 is opposed by a coalition of taxpayers and small businesses, including the California Republican Party, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and National Federation of Independent Business/California.

Proposition 31

Should the state constitution and law be amended to require government performance reviews and two-year budget cycles, to prohibit the Legislature from creating certain expenditures unless offsetting revenues or spending cuts are identified, and to make changes in certain responsibilities of local government, the Legislature and the Governor?

Among its many provisions, Prop 31 would require two-year budget cycles and performance reviews and would create measures for state and local program accountability. It would prohibit the state Legislature from passing certain bills that reduce revenues or increase expenditures by more than $25 million annually unless offsetting revenues or spending cuts are identified. It would permit the Governor to cut the budget unilaterally during declared fiscal emergencies if the Legislature fails to act.

PRO: Prop 31 forces politicians to finally live within their means and holds them accountable for their actions. It will increase public input and transparency in the budgeting process.

Prop 31 requires a real balanced budget and stops billions of dollars from being spent without public review or citizen oversight. Certain fiscal responsibilities of the Legislature and Governor, including state and local budgeting and oversight procedures, would change. Local governments that create plans to coordinate services would receive funding from the state and could develop their own procedures for administering state programs. Prop 31’s provisions relating to enhanced local government activities would likely result in decreased state revenues and commensurate increases in local revenues, probably in the range of about $200 million annually beginning in 2013-14.

CON: Prop 31 is poorly written and contradictory, and will lead to lawsuits and confusion instead of reform. It will increase costs, increase bureaucratic controls and undermine public protections.

Prop 31 will shift $200 million from education and other vital functions to fund experimental county programs. The fiscal responsibilities of the Legislature and Governor, including state and local budgeting and oversight procedures, would not change. Local governments would not be given (1) funding to implement new plans that coordinate services or (2) authority to develop their own procedures for administering state programs.

Proposition 32

Should unions, corporations, government contractors and state and local government employers be prohibited from using payroll-deducted funds, or in some instances their own funds, for political expenditures?

Prop 32 would prohibit all organizations from using funds derived from payroll deductions for all political spending, including making contributions to state and local candidates or candidate/ballot measure committees, or making independent expenditures.

PRO: Prop 32 stops special interests from taking political deductions from employee paychecks and guarantees every dollar given is strictly voluntary. Unions and corporations could not use money deducted from an employee’s paycheck for political purposes. Unions, corporations, and government contractors would be subject to additional campaign finance restrictions.

Prop 32 cuts the money tie between special interests and politicians.

Prop 32 restricts contractors from contributing to politicians who approve their contracts from the time the contract is being considered until the contract expires.

Prop. 32 is supported by small business owners, farmers, educators, and taxpayers, including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and Citizens for California Reform.

CON: Business Super PACs and independent expenditure committees are exempted from the controls of Prop 32, leaving a wide loophole.

Prop 32 is unnecessary; union members already have the ability to opt out of political contributions.

99% of California corporations don’t use payroll for their political contributions, so Prop 32 is not a fair and balanced reform. Voters should remember that similar initiatives to limit or prohibit political contributions using payroll-deducted funds have been on the state ballot before–such as Prop. 226 in 1998–and were defeated. There would be increased costs to the state to investigate alleged violations of the law and to respond to requests for advice. Combined, these costs could exceed $1 million annually.

No on Prop. 32 is sponsored by individuals opposed to special exemption from campaign finance rules for corporate special interests, including California Common Cause, California Clean Money Campaign and California Democratic Party.

Proposition 33

Should automobile insurance companies be permitted to offer a discount to drivers who have continuously maintained their insurance coverage, even if they change their insurance company?

California regulation of auto insurance was established by Proposition 103 in 1988.  It requires that rates and premiums set by three factors in decreasing order of importance (1) driving safety record; (2) number of miles driven each year; and (3) number of years the insured has been driving.  Proposition 103 prohibits insurance companies from using the absence of a prior insurance policy a factor in rate-setting. Insurance companies can offer a “continuous coverage” or “loyalty” discount to customers insured by their company for a specified length of time, but are prohibited from offering this kind of discount to new customers who switch to them from other insurers.

PRO: Prop 33 allows drivers to shop for a better insurance deal by continuing to receive “continuous coverage” discounts when they change insurance carriers. It will result in more competition between insurance companies, resulting in better insurance rates for drivers.

Prop 33 protects military families, consumers who are unemployed and student drivers, and would provide incentives for uninsured drivers to purchase insurance. Insurance companies could offer new customers a discount on automobile insurance premiums based on the number of years in the previous five years that the customer was insured. Insurance companies provide this discount to their long-term customers as an incentive not to switch to another company, and because it’s in the insurers’ best interests to retain these customers. Customers not qualifying for this discount pay a higher rate.

CON: Prop 33 allows insurance companies to increase the cost of insurance to drivers who have not maintained continuous coverage. Drivers with perfect driving records would pay a penalty if they have not had continuous coverage in the past.

Prop 33 violates California law which prohibits insurance companies from charging people more because they had not driven previously. Insurers could continue to provide discounts to their long-term automobile insurance customers, but would continue to be prohibited from providing a discount to new customers switching from other insurers.

Mercury Insurance is the sponsor of Prop 33. It sponsored a similar measure, Prop 17, on the 2010 ballot, which was defeated at the polls. In 2003, Mercury sponsored legislation (SB 841) that made the same kind of change to the law as the change that is proposed by Prop 33. The 2003 law was passed by the Legislature, but was taken to court by consumer activists. The courts ended up throwing out the 2003 law on the grounds that the Legislature cannot pass an amendment to Prop 103 which does not further its purposes. Consequently, the changes in the law that Mercury has been seeking can be instituted only if approved by a vote of the people.

Proposition 34

Should the death penalty be repealed and replaced with life imprisonment without possibility of parole when someone is convicted of murder with specified special circumstances?

Current law makes first degree murder punishable either by death or life without possibility of parole when special circumstances of the crime are charged and proven. Special circumstances include murder carried out for financial gain, one that was especially cruel, or one committed during other specified criminal activities. Death penalty cases are automatically appealed and often involve extensive challenges in state and federal courts, so that such proceedings can take several decades to complete for each prisoner. According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, 900 individuals have received death sentences since the current death penalty statute was enacted in 1978; of those, 14 have been executed, 75 have had their sentences reduced, and 83 have died in prison.

PRO:  A yes vote on Prop 34 means no offenders could be sentenced to death under state law. Offenders who are currently under a sentence of death would be resentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The state would provide a total of $100 million in grants to local law enforcement agencies over the next four years.

More than 100 innocent people have been sentenced to death in the United States and some have been executed. Prop 34 keeps criminals who commit heinous crimes in prison until they die and requires them to work. The death penalty does not make us safer; better crime solving does. Prop 34 saves hundreds of millions of dollars and redirects $100 million to law enforcement.

State and county court costs and county jail costs would be reduced because court proceedings regarding sentencing would be shorter, resulting in savings of several million dollars a year.  The state would also save $50 million a year as a result of the Supreme Court and state agencies not having to participate in death penalty appeals, and there would be savings in the low tens of millions a year in state prison costs of housing death penalty prisoners.  Additional future costs of prison construction would be avoided.  All in all, it is estimated that these savings would amount to $100 million annually in the first few years, growing to about $130 million annually thereafter.

CON: Abolishing the death penalty would cost taxpayers $100 million over the next four years, and many millions more in the future. The death penalty is given to less than 2% of murderers, those guilty of the most heinous crimes. Data suggests that abolishing capital punishment will result in increased long-term costs for lifetime housing and health care of murderers. Prop 34 lets murderers who commit crimes with special circumstances escape justice.

Opponents of Prop. 34 include Marc Klaas (father of 12-year-old murder victim Polly Klaas), California State Sheriffs’ Association and California District Attorneys Association.

Proposition 35

Should the definition of human trafficking be expanded, penalties for traffickers be increased, convicted sexual traffickers be required to register as sex offenders, and additional training for law enforcement officers be required?

Current law defines two forms of human trafficking: in one, coercion or fraud is used to obtain forced labor, in the other it is used to induce commercial sex acts. Maximum sentences for sex trafficking vary with factors such as the age of the victim, or whether serious injury results. Law enforcement officers doing investigative work sometimes have to determine whether a situation involves human trafficking, identify a person or persons as victims, and respond appropriately. Currently, training for such work is optional.  Some departments have offered it, in some cases with federal help. Convicted sex offenders are required to register with their local law enforcement departments. This requirement does not automatically include convicted sex traffickers.

PRO: We need stronger laws to deter human traffickers. Online predators fare using modern technology to exploit vulnerable individuals. We need to identify victims, protect their rights, and help them access necessary services.

Proposition 35 would significantly increase fines and prison terms for human trafficking. Examples include raising the maximum prison term for labor trafficking from five years to twelve; raising it for forced sex trafficking of an adult from five years to twenty and for that of a child from eight years to life.  Maximum fines would rise from one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) to one and a half million dollars ($1,500,000).

CON: Prop 35 would have a detrimental effect on the state budget. Privacy rights would be threatened by the wholesale demand for Internet identifiers. It would worsen prison overcrowding.

If Prop. 35 passes, the fiscal impact would be great. State and local annual costs are estimated at a couple of million dollars: longer sentences would increase prison population, and state and local costs would rise if arrests increased. Revenues would be allocated to victims’ services, and would not offset costs.

Proposition 36

Should California law be amended to provide that a life sentence should not be imposed for a third felony conviction unless the third conviction is for a serious or violent felony?

California’s three strikes law was passed as an initiative measure (Prop 184) in 1994. It imposes a life sentence for certain repeat offenders. If a person has two or more serious or violent felony convictions, the sentence imposed for any third felony conviction (not just serious or violent felonies) is life imprisonment with a minimum of 25 years before the possibility of parole.

PRO: Prop 36 restores the voters’ original intent. According to official ballot materials promoting the law, the three strikes scheme was intended to “keep murderers, rapists, and child molesters behind bars, where they belong.” Today, more than half of inmates sentenced under the law are serving sentences for non-violent crime.  Prop 36 makes sure that dangerous criminals who commit serious and violent offenses are in jail for the rest of their lives. Prop 36 makes the punishment fit the crime. It makes sure that petty, non-violent offenders are not a continuing drain on scarce state resources and taxpayer dollars. Prop 36 will save $100 million every year. Savings will better used to fund schools, prevent crime, and decrease the need for tax increases.

Savings : Estimated $70 to $90 million annually over the next two decades because fewer people would be incarcerated for life, and some current inmates previously convicted of a non-violent, non-serious third strike offences would qualify for sentence review and possible reduction. A significant savings would result from a reduced need for costly medical care for elderly inmates.

CON: The three strikes law works. It does not need to be changed. It has successfully kept violent and dangerous criminals off the street and greatly reduced their opportunity to commit repeat offenses, preventing additional murders, rapes and other violent crimes. The punishments imposed under the three strikes law are an effective deterrent to criminal behavior. Any person with two felony convictions knows that a third conviction could result in a life sentence.

The crime rate has dropped because of the three strikes law. Proponents are counting the costs the state spends on prisons, but not the costs to victims. Crimes impose costs on victims, financially, physically and emotionally. The reduction in the crime rate should be recognized and factored in as a cost benefit to society. Opponents of Prop. 36 include California State Sheriff’s Association, California District Attorneys Association, Crime Victims United of California and California Peace Officers’ Organization.

Proposition 37

Should labeling be required on foods containing genetically modified ingredients when such foods (whether raw or processed, plant or animal) are offered for sale to consumers in California?

According to some estimates, 40% to 70% of the foods currently for sale in California contain some genetically modified (GM) ingredients, sometimes referred to as genetically engineered (GE) ingredients or genetically modified organisms (GMO). Genetic modification changes an organism’s genome, or hereditary information, in order to produce some desired change in that organism’s characteristics. No existing law regulates GE foods or requires food producers to identify foods produced through genetic engineering.

PRO: Consumers have the right to know what’s in their food. Prop 37 simply requires that food companies accurately label the contents of their products, allowing consumers to make informed decisions. It does not ban genetically engineered food. 50 countries around the globe (including most of Europe, Japan, China, Russia and India) require labels for genetically engineered foods. American companies should give the American people the same information they give to their consumers abroad. There are no long-term health studies proving that genetically engineered food is safe for humans. Food companies regularly reprint labels, and a reasonable phase-in period is provided, so Prop 37 would not increase food-packaging costs.

CON: Respected scientific and medical organizations (including the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organization) have concluded that biotech foods are safe. Prop 37 is full of exemptions that benefit special interests. It requires labels on soymilk, but exempts cow’s milk (and other dairy products). Fruit juices require a label, but not alcohol. Food sold in restaurants would be exempt. The proposition would allow any individual to sue family farmers and grocers without any proof of harm, potentially costing California courts, businesses and taxpayers millions. Farmers and food companies would be forced to switch to higher-priced, non-GE organic ingredients, potentially increasing food cost for families by hundreds of dollars per year.

The fiscal effects are unknown, but could potentially increase state administrative costs up to one million dollars annually to monitor compliance with the disclosure requirements specified in the measure.

Proposition 38

Should California’s personal income tax rates be increased during 2013-24 to provide funds for public schools, early childhood education programs, and state debt payments?

Prop 38 would increase personal income tax rates until 2024 on all but the lowest income bracket, impacting approximately 60% of filers.  The maximum 9.3% personal income tax rate would be increased in stages up to 11.5% (on incomes of $2,500,000 for single filers, $5,000,000 on joint filers). The additional 1% tax for mental health services would continue to apply. Prop 38 revenues would be dedicated to three purposes. In 2013-15, 60% of the funds would go to schools, 10% to early childhood programs, and 30% to state debt payments. In 2015-17, a somewhat higher share could be used for state debt payments. After that, up to 85% of the funds would go to schools and up to 15% would go to early childhood programs, with some revenue available for state debt payments.

PRO: Prop 38 makes schools a priority again, guaranteeing funding to restore a well-rounded education. School districts could use the funds in different ways at different schools—expenditures would be determined locally, the most effective approach. School districts will be responsible for performance and thus held accountable for improvement at each school.

In the initial years, school districts would receive roughly $6 billion annually, or $1,000 per student, for schools, low-income students, and training, technology, and teaching materials. Early childhood programs would receive roughly $1 billion annually, largely for child care and preschool.

CON: Taxpayers would be locked into higher taxes until 2024, with virtually no accountability as to how the money is spent. Under Prop 38, there are no requirements to improve school performance or get rid of bad teachers. Prop 38’s tax increases will force family businesses to cut jobs or move out of state.

Opponents of Prop. 38 include California Chamber of Commerce, California Democratic Party, California Republican Party and California State Sheriffs’ Association.

Proposition 39

Should the California tax code be changed to require multistate firms to pay income taxes based on a percentage of their sales in California, with roughly half of the resulting tax increase to be used to fund clean/efficient energy projects for five years?

Multistate businesses, which operate both in California and in other states or countries, pay the majority of California’s corporate income taxes. Current law allows such businesses to choose the more beneficial of two tax formulas: one based on the proportion of its sales in California (the “single sales” formula), the other based on the proportion of its sales, payroll property located in California (the “three-factor” formula). Prop 39 would require multistate firms doing business in California to use only the single sales factor tax formula, slightly modified. Prop 39 would establish a fund to support projects to improve energy efficiency and expand the use of alternative energy. For the first five years, up to $550 million annually would be transferred to the fund from the estimated revenue increase resulting from the Prop 39 tax change, with the remainder going to the state’s General Fund.

PRO: The current system, the result of a back-room deal, created a $1 billion tax loophole for multistate corporations; Prop 39 closes that loophole. Corporations are able to manipulate the system from year to year in order to pay the lowest possible taxes. Prop 39 levels the playing field by making multistate corporations use the same rules that California-only corporations do. Prop 39 will create jobs, energy savings, and a better environment for Californians. Prop 39 ensures that large corporations pay their fair share to offset drastic budget cuts in California.

CON: Prop 39 is a $1 billion tax increase at a time when California is suffering from high unemployment and a budget crunch. Prop 39’s funding of energy efficiency projects would create a new bureaucracy without sufficient oversight. Prop 39 would change laws that have been in place for over 40 years. Energy efficiency projects are already funded to a significant level—Prop 39 is a recipe for waste and corruption. It taxes new job creation, hits employees and small businesses with higher taxes and stifles job growth.

Proposition 40

Should the current state Senate districts be retained?

Prop 40 is a referendum that asks the voters to approve or reject the current state Senate districts. A YES vote approves the existing districts, and a NO vote rejects them. If the current districts are approved, they would stay in effect until after the next federal census in 2020. If the current districts are rejected, “Special Masters” appointed by the California Supreme Court would draw new district maps to be used until after the next census.

PRO: Once the Citizens Redistricting Commission’s maps were certified, a group within the Republican Party—not the official Republican Party—challenged both the Congressional and state Senate districts in state and federal courts. Those challenges were dismissed. The group then circulated a referendum petition to try to nullify the state Senate districts. While the referendum petition was still circulating, the proponents asked the state Supreme Court to appoint Special Masters to draw new and different state Senate district maps for use in the 2012 elections, claiming that the maps drawn by the commission did not comply with Constitutional requirements. The court refused to do so, finding that the district maps appeared to comply with all of the constitutionally mandated criteria. Thus, the entire point of the litigants’ effort was moot. This small group found that they had no financial support for their campaign. Since a measure once on the ballot can’t be removed, all that the proponents could do was to state in the official Voter Information Guide that Prop 40 is not needed. In August, both the California Democratic Party and the California Republican Party announced that both of them were officially endorsing a YES vote on Prop 40.

CON: Given that synopsis, as this item is still on the ballot, it should be noted that if Prop. 40 does not pass and voters reject the current maps, there would be a one-time cost to the state of about $500,000 to pay for the drawing of the new districts, plus a one-time cost statewide of about another $500,000 for counties to develop new election precinct maps and materials. Proponents are no longer asking for a NO vote. Their intention was to stop the current Senate districts from being implemented in 2012. Since the Court ruled to keep those districts in place, Prop 40 is not needed.

(Information provided by the League of Women Voters Antelope Valley.)

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