Mercifully, California voters will face only five initiatives on the June 5 ballot. They were put there by the Legislature. Many more initiatives from the public – you know, those initiatives being promoted by people standing outside your favorite Bakersfield store asking you to sign a petition – will appear on the November ballot.
We recommend voters support all five initiatives on the June ballot. They include:
Proposition 68 – Vote YES.
The California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018 seeks voter approval to sell $4 billion in general obligation bonds to fund various natural resources-related programs, such as for habitat conservation, parks and water-related projects.
Opponents claim Prop. 68 is just another “credit card” debt escalation for public improvement projects that should be paid from the state’s general fund budget. But the initiative, which enjoys widespread support, including from the California Chamber of Commerce, is better likened to taking out a mortgage to buy a house.
To make the necessary public improvements delayed by the Great Recession and a persistent California drought requires the long-term, dependable revenue source these bonds will provide. The money will be used for natural resource conservation, state and local parks, flood protection, safe drinking water and other water-related projects.
Certainly, we all must be concerned that future generations of taxpayers are not burdened with unnecessary debt. But we also must be willing to invest today to preserve California’s natural treasures – its parks, waterways, environment – for the use and enjoyment of future generations. We are the stewards of this heritage. Vote YES on Prop. 68.
Proposition 69 – Vote Yes
Sadly, Prop. 69 should not be necessary. But the truth is that we don’t trust our legislators – especially our future ones. This initiative will place in the state constitution language that will require future legislators to honor the commitment made by today’s legislators.
Senate Bill 1, which was passed last year and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, required a 12-cents-per-gallon increase in gas tax, a 20-cent-per-gallon increase in the diesel fuel tax and the annual fee charged owners of electric cars to be spent on “transportation projects.”
But the state constitution does not tie these taxes to those particular uses and future legislators could rip off the money to fund other programs and services.
Proposition 69 places the spending requirement in the state constitution. Vote YES on Prop. 69.
Proposition 70 – Vote Yes
The initiative with the most meat on its bones is Prop. 70, which was a scheme used to convince seven Republican senators to vote last year to extend the expiration date of the state’s cap-and-trade law from 2020 to 2030.
OK, don’t start rolling your eyes. We agree, cap-and-trade seems to be an inside-industry issue that has no relevance to most voters. But stick with this a minute. It’s actually a good story and an example of how the “sausage” we call legislation is put together. It is also reason to believe that even in politics, people should stick to their word.
In a nutshell, cap-and-trade is a program championed by Gov. Brown that requires “climate polluters,” such as oil refiners and power plants, to pay a fee for emitting carbon. State officials set a cap on the amount of carbon polluters can emit per year and issue a limited number of “allowances” each year. Companies must have sufficient “allowances,” or buy extra ones from the government or other polluters. The program generates revenue, which the state is supposed to spend on projects that cut greenhouse gas emissions.
To get the necessary legislative votes to extend the program beyond its 2020 expiration date, the governor and Democrats made a deal with then Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley. By the way, the deal eventually cost the much-criticized Mayes his leadership role.
In exchange for Republican votes, Brown and Democrats agreed to place Prop. 70 on the June ballot to give increased oversight and limit how cap-and-trade money can be spent. After 2024, spending would briefly require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, rather than the current simple majority.
In reality, the “deal” was like your little kid promising to clean his room, but all the while having his fingers crossed behind his back. Although Gov. Brown has signed the ballot argument in support of Prop. 70, Democrats never intended to support it. In fact, they are campaigning against it.
From the get-go, Mayes has had to fight to even get fair treatment of Prop. 70. He had to go to court to get a judge to force the California attorney general to give the measure a more accurate, fair title.
Again, in reality, Prop. 70 doesn’t do a heck of a lot. Even if it passes, the Legislature still can spend money generated by cap-and-trade auctions with a majority vote. And after a one-time, two-thirds vote on how to spend the funds that start accumulating after 2024, allocation would go back to majority rule.
Confused? Well, you should be. Cap-and-trade is an esoteric insiders’ law to begin with. The deal Mayes and Republicans made only added to the confusion. It also leaves us to wonder: Were Mayes and Republicans stupid to make their Prop. 70 deal, or did they just want to appear to be doing something to stand up to Democratic pressure?
Whatever the reason Prop. 70 ended up on the ballot, it deserves a YES vote. Even politicians should honor their word.
Proposition 71 – Vote Yes
Proposition 71 recognizes the reality of California elections today. In a nutshell, it’s a housekeeping measure that will eliminate confusion over when a voter-approved ballot measure becomes law.
The biggest change in voting in California is the growing use of mail ballots. In the November 1970 election, about 200,000 California voters, or 3 percent of the total, cast a ballot by mail. Fast-forward to November 2016, when more than 8 million voters, or 58 percent of the total, cast a mail ballot.
State and federal laws also allow provisional ballots to be cast on Election Day. These are ballots cast by people who believe they are registered to vote, although their names do not appear on polling place voter lists. Often the counting of mailed and provisional ballots is not completed for days or weeks after Election Day.
The state constitution now requires most state ballot measures to take effect the day after Election Day. But if the vote is close, the outcome may not be known. Proposition 71 would require ballot measures to take effect after the statewide vote has been counted and certified – about six weeks after Election Day.
This is a reasonable accommodation for the changing way Californians now are voting. Vote YES on Prop. 71.
Proposition 72 – Vote Yes
Proposition 72 is a bow to Californians who are taking the state’s on-again-off-again drought seriously and who have invested in rainwater capture systems. Simply stated, if Prop. 72 passes, installing a rainwater capture system will not result in a higher property tax bill.
When an owner makes an improvement to his or her property, the county assessor typically updates the property’s taxable value to reflect the improvement. The county assessor adds the value of the improvement to the property’s taxable value to determine future tax bills.
That added value and added tax falls into the category of “no good deed going unpunished.” Just for conserving scarce water, property owners are punished with higher tax bills.
Vote YES on Prop. 72.