California Election Propositions
Thirteen California propositions are on this year’s ballot. Props 1A through 1E were placed on the ballot by the state legislature; Props 83 through 90 are initiatives that were approved via petitioning efforts. The following is a brief run-down of the propositions, plus a detailed look at some of the more controversial ones.
1A: Transportation Funds – If passed, 1A would change the California Constitution to ensure the money from a current 6 percent state sales tax on motor vehicle fuel could only be used on transportation-related projects. In the past, revenue from the tax – amounting to about $2 billion annually for state use – has been used for other items like social services, prisons and education, in addition to transportation. Though the prop would have no fiscal impact on citizen’s wallets, legislators would have less flexibility when deciding how tax dollars are spent.
Those in favor of Prop 1A argue that the initiative would make legislators more accountable when allocating tax dollars, since voters would make the choice to put these funds toward transportation. Supporters also assert that the state needs to spend more money on transportation, given the poor conditions of roads and sub-par implementation of safety measures California’s highways.
Opponents say that transportation is not as relevant a problem as some other issues the state is facing, like education and health care spending, and therefore should be addressed only after solving larger problems. They also contend that since the majority of Californians pay taxes on gasoline, the revenue from the earnings of such a tax should be able to be spent flexibly as needed at the state’s discretion, rather than strictly allocated to a specific cause.
1B: Transportation Bonds – This proposition would allow the state government to spend $19.9 billion in bonds to fund common transportation needs like road repairs, adding lanes to freeways, and expanding local public transit. The measure also mandates some of the funds raised from the initiative would be allocated to anti-terrorism security at shipping ports. It would eventually involve additional state spending upwards of $39 billion, plus interest money for the bonds; however, it would not impose new taxes on citizens.
1C: Public Housing Bonds – Though private companies are the primary developers of new housing in California, in the past the state has allocated government money for public housing projects – usually in the form of inexpensive loans or grants for low-income residents and first-time property buyers. If Prop 1C passes, the state’s ability to provide these forms of assistance would expand – the government would be allowed to sell $2.85 billion in bonds for housing assistance for state residents. The funds would be appropriated for housing and development projects in urban and rural areas, improvement of homeless shelters and other need-based housing facilities, and provide financial assistance for renters, and low-income or first-time home-buyers. After paying off the bonds and interest, the total cost of the project would amount to around $61 billion, over the course of 30 years.
Prop 1E: Flood Control Bonds – Currently, most of California’s drinking water comes from large water channels flowing from Northern California into the Central Valley. Prop 1E, if approved, would allow the state to sell bonds worth $4.1 billion on flood control projects to protect and maintain the reservoirs and rivers that contain most of California’s potable water. The money would be used to repair levees in the Central Valley – which could prevent flood disasters from happening in the future – and also for safety improvement projects throughout the state. After a 30-year period, about $12 billion would be spent on the undertaking of the initiative’s goals.
For an in-depth look at state Proposition 1D, see “Prop Aims to Boost School Funding.” Daily Nexus, Oct. 24.
Prop 83: Punishment for Sex Crimes – The estimated 90,000 registered sex offenders currently residing in California are subject to a plethora of special rules: Most must register with local police departments whenever they relocate, some cannot live near schools, and some are required to wear electronic tracking devices. If passed, Prop 83 – also known as Jessica’s Law – would increase the restrictions and penalties placed on sex offenders in the state. The prop would also mandate that an increased number of sex offenders with more serious convictions could serve time in state mental hospitals. In addition, the prop would require persons convicted of serious sex crimes to wear an electronic monitoring tag for the rest of their lives, even after release from prison or termination of parole.
Supporters of Prop 83 assert that keeping sex offenders in prison or mental institutions – or simply just away from schools and parks – will reduce the opportunity for them to victimize others. They also say the proposition will give police better resources to keep track of convicts, and potentially prevent future sex crimes by raising the consequences for convicted offenders.
Opponents of the initiative contend that the proposition would waste government money by applying punishments designed for those who commit the most serious types of sex offenses to sex criminals in general. This, they argue, may reduce nonviolent offenders’ chances for rehabilitation and re-integration into society. In addition, opponents claim that the potential law would not serve as a deterrent for potential sex criminals, as sex crimes are usually the result of mental disorders or compulsions that should be addressed as medical – not legal – problems.
Prop 84: Bonds for Water & Natural Resources – California already has a variety of programs in place to protect the environment and natural resources, and the approval of Prop 84 would provide more funding for such projects or to make improvements where needed. If passed, the initiative would permit the state government to sell $5.4 billion in bonds to support these projects – and, if possible, future ones. More specifically, the funds would be directed to maintaining and improving water quality, flood control, parks, forests and wildlife conservation. In addition, monies from the initiative would be apportioned to protecting rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.
Prop 85: Parental Notification for Minors Seeking Abortions – Perhaps the most controversial initiative on this year’s ballot, Prop 85 would require any doctor who agrees to perform an abortion on a minor to notify her parent or guardian 48 hours before the procedure takes place. Parents would only have to be notified of the planned procedure – not give consent. A similar prop – Prop 73 – was placed on last year’s special election, but was rejected by voters.
Supporters of the bill believe that since minors need parental consent for almost any other surgical procedure, abortions should be no exception. Proponents also contend that allowing minors to keep sexual health-related information from their parents may lead to additional medical problems. For instance, according to those in support of the initiative, in the case that there are complications from an abortion, a minor may feel she can not turn to her parents for help getting treatment, leading her to not do so at all. Or, if the minor’s pregnancy resulted from a rape, her parents would not have the knowledge they needed to assure any additional potential complications – physical or emotional – would be addressed for their daughter.
Opponents of Prop 85 say the initiative will create dangerous situations for young women seeking abortions who feel they cannot tell their parents, either because they fear disapproval or because the guardian is abusive, perhaps sexually. Opponents also argue that minors afraid of having their parent or guardian informed will seek an unsafe, illegal abortion. Challengers of the initiative also feel the prop would infringe upon the well-established precedents of patient privacy and doctor-patient confidentiality relationships. In addition, they contend that it is not a physician’s responsibility to intervene in private family matters.
Prop 86: Additional Tax on Cigarettes – This initiative would raise California’s current $.87 per-pack state levy on cigarettes by $2.60, amounting to a $3.47 duty on each pack of cigarettes sold. The state would use money raised from the tax for a number of specified health care programs, including funding for emergency care services and insurance subsidies for children from low-income families. The tax is expected to raise an initial $2.1 billion per year for the next few years. If Prop 86 passes, the state anticipates a substantial decrease in smoking-related public health care costs after a few years, which could eventually amount to billions of dollars in savings for California’s health system.
Prop 87: Oil Tax for Clean Energy – At this time, California oil producers are required to pay a 6.2 percent tax on every barrel of oil produced. Prop 87 would raise this tax to a level that would amount to an estimated $260 billion increase – after the initial $4 billion cost of the program was paid off – in money for California, paid by the product’s manufacturers. The state and the prop’s supporters hope to use revenues raised from the tax for the development of alternative, more efficient forms of energy; however, opponents claim the tax will only lead to higher oil prices in California as companies will pass the cost on to consumers.
Prop 88: Property Parcel Tax for Education Funding – If passed, Prop 88 would add an additional $50 flat duty per year on every owned land parcel in California. The tax would be in addition to any other property taxes paid by the land’s owner, and collectively, would amount to $450 million annually in funds set aside for K-12 education programs. Specifically, the state intends for the money to help reduce class sizes, purchase new textbooks and improve safety at public schools. Most elderly, disabled or low-income homeowners would be exempt from the tax.
Prop 89: Public Funding for Political Campaigns – Currently, most money for political campaigns comes from private sources including donors, companies and political parties. Some believe this system is unfair, because candidates with the ability to raise the most money for their campaigns – or who have enough from their own finances – have an advantage over those who do not. Prop 89, if approved, would allow certain qualified candidates for public office to fund their campaigns through public funds – provided by a 0.2 percent tax increase on large corporations in California. These funds would only be available to candidates who volunteer to not accept any private donations or use their own money to pay for their campaigns. About $200 million would be raised annually to finance these campaigns.
Prop 90: Eminent Domain and Property Rights – If passed, Prop 90 would make the practice of “eminent domain” property seizures – wherein the government forces a land owner to sell his property to the state for commercial use – unlawful, except in cases of government emergencies or looming public health or safety issues. The financial consequences of the initiative’s approval are hard to estimate, but many assert that the amount of lawsuits that ensue over the issue may create a fiscal nightmare for both property owners and California’s budget.
Easy Voter Guide: www.easyvoter.org, Smart Voter: www.smartvoter.org, League of Women Voters: www.lwv.org, California Legislative Analyst’s Office: www.lao.ca.gov