It’s general election time again on Tuesday, Nov. 2. And that means a raft of new state propositions on your ballot which you haven’t bothered to research until you get in the booth. Per usual, we’ve compiled a cheat-Sheet for you to make the Voters Guide read more like TV Guide!
Prop 19: Legalizes marijuana (under California, not federal law), permits local government to regulate and tax production, distribution and sale. Measure would change state law to legalize marijuana possession (an ounce) and cultivation of limited amounts (on private property up to 25 square feet per parcel) by persons 21 and older. Legal and oversight provisions allow the state to regulate commercial production and distribution, including hemp products, all of which are subject to taxes and fees. Cost to you: Unknown. Upside: Benefits are also unknown, but could result in savings by reducing correctional and some court costs, as well as extra tax revenue to the state in the tens of millions of dollars. Businesses producing marijuana would have to pay the same taxes as other businesses, and local governments could collect taxes and fees not only on marijuana, but also for related activities. Downside: It’s not clear whether, or to what extent, many state and local governments would license, grow or sell, or tax marijuana. State and local governments may have to redirect law enforcement (and court) activities and staff, meaning some revenues gained would be washed out by increased regulatory and enforcement costs. Publicly-funded substance abuse programs could see a boost in patients seeking treatment or other medical services. And the prop could end up inadvertently reducing the costs and offsetting revenue generated by the state’s medical marijuana program.
Note: Federal law still classifies marijuana as an illegal substance, and the fed may or may not decide to work with state and local agencies. Lawsuits are already drafted to contest Prop 19 in court should voters approve it.
Prop 20: “Redistricting of Congressional Districts” – Constitutional Amendment. Takes elected representatives out of establishing congressional districts and turns it over to a recently-authorized non-partisan commission. Cost to you: Nothing. Upside: Proponents say this will help draw fair, “safe” districts for Congress, as opposed to letting politicians gerrymander the lines. Downside: Opponents say the commission is another example of an unaccountable bureaucracy with too much power.
Prop 21: Vehicle License Surcharge. Purports to establish a revenue stream to fund state parks and wildlife conservation programs. Cost to you: An extra $18 when you register your car. (Commercial vehicles, trailers and coaches exempted.) Upside: After offsetting existing funding sources, $250 million in annual revenue. And you get free admission to all state parks. Proponents urge establishing this “trust fund” to keep the parks open and maintained. Downside: Critics charge that Sacramento is already planning to divert existing park funds to other programs. They say we don’t need another funding stream. Existing funding should be left alone. In the end, money for parks won’t go up, just your car taxes.
Prop 22: Prohibits state borrowing or taking funds for transportation, redevelopment or local government projects. – Constitutional Amendment. Restricts the state’s authority to redirect state fuel taxes and local property tax revenues. Cost to you: Nothing (apparently). Upside: Supporters say 22 stops the state from making off with taxes the voters have already dedicated to transportation. They say 22 protects 911 services, police, fire road repairs and other vital things. Downside: Opponents say public schools will lose billions without the ability to borrow from elsewhere. They also say 22 protects big-time developers.
Prop 23: Suspension of AB 32 Greenhouse Gas Law until unemployment rate drops to 5.5% or less for a full year. Existing and proposed regulations would be suspended. Cost to you: Nada. Upside: AB 32 has been derided as a jobs killer. Backers of 23 point to increased economic activity that will result in a “significant” boost to state and local revenue. California, they say, can’t afford imposed energy costs that really don’t do anything to address global warming anyway. Downside: Adversaries say 23 was set up by big Texas oil to kill clean energy and air standards, and threatens public health. They also say it will increase dependence on expensive oil and hamstring competition from California-based wind and solar companies.
Prop 24: Repeal legislation that allowed businesses to lower tax liabilities. Business taxes will return to what they were before the 2008/2009 law changes. Cuts ability to deduct losses against other income, changes multi-state business tax calculations in California and prohibits business from sharing tax credits with related businesses. Cost to you: Nothing. Upside: Potential revenue of about $1.3 billion. Stops $1.7 billion in new tax breaks for multi-state corporations. Public schools, health and safety should come before loopholes. Downside: Opponents say California needs JOBS, not TAXES on BUSINESSES providing JOBS. They say 24 doesn’t guarantee $1 toward classrooms, but rather reduces revenues for schools and vital services by hurting small business and job creation, which sends jobs out of state.
Prop 25: Changes legislative vote requirement to pass budgets and related legislation from two-thirds to simple majority. – Constitutional Amendment. Lowers votes required to pass budgets to a majority in each house. Retains two-thirds needed for taxes, however. Cost to you: Nothing. Upside: Supporters say 25 holds legislators accountable for late budgets, stopping their pay and benefits every day it’s late, and ends budget gridlock while not affecting the two-thirds vote to raise taxes. Downside: Opponents blast 25 as making it easier for politicians to raise taxes, saying 25 has fine print which eliminates voters’ rights to a referendum to force votes on taxes disguised as fees. and restrict constitutional rights to reject bad laws. Prop 25, they say, does nothing to punish politicians, who will just increase their lavish spending accounts.
Prop 26: Approve certain state and local fees by two-thirds vote. Revises the definition of taxes to include certain fees and charges, such as environmental impact fees, that would require two-thirds approval by each house or the voters. Cost to you: Nothing. Upside: Stops the state from raising so-called “hidden” taxes that are disguised as “fees” to circumvent voting rules for higher taxation. Downside: Naysayers point to big oil, tobacco and alcohol, suggesting they want us to pay for damages their products cause, and suggest 26 will lead to decreased revenue, and increased transportation and General Fund costs up to $1 billion annually.
Prop 27: Eliminate state redistricting commission, gives authority to elected officials. If approved, turns over determination of district boundaries to the legislature, and abolishes 14-member, non-partisan commission. See Prop. 20. Cost to you: Nothing. Upside: 27 preserves status quo and prevents another layer of bureaucracy. Downside: Critics say it’s nothing more than a power grab by politicians who want the power to draw safe district lines for themselves.