There’s a little something to interest, or concern, just about everyone on the November ballot of statewide propositions — initiatives affecting the homeless, mentally ill, seniors, dialysis patients, animal lovers, you name it.
But the big attention-getter will be Proposition 6, the effort to repeal the gas tax that the Legislature passed and Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law last year.
No one wants to pay taxes. But, then again, no one wants to drive on pothole-plagued, deteriorating roads or get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Those were the road conditions when state lawmakers bit the bullet and increased taxes – an act they knew would be unpopular. So unpopular it led to the recall of one lawmaker.
Now it’s time for Californians to bite the bullet: They should reject efforts to repeal the much-needed tax. The Californian urges voters to reject Proposition 6.
California’s roads are ranked among the nation’s worst. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates drivers pay $844 a year to repair the damage to their vehicles caused by deteriorating roads.
Road improvements and other transportation projects are generally paid for through user-fees – gas taxes and vehicle fees. The theory is that as more vehicles wear out our roads, drivers also are buying more gas and therefore paying more taxes to fix those roads.
But with the increasing use of electric vehicles and the improved fuel efficiency of all cars, that model is falling short of generating enough money to maintain the state’s roads. When they increased the gas tax, state lawmakers faced a massive $130 billion backlog of maintenance and modernization needs. California joined several states that raised their gas taxes to close similar funding shortfalls.
California lawmakers increased the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon, the diesel excise tax by 20 cents a gallon and the diesel sales tax to 5.75 percent from 1.75 percent. They also raised annual vehicle registration fees between $25 to $175, depending on a vehicle’s value, and created a $100 annual fee, starting in 2020, to be imposed on zero-emission vehicles, which do not pay gas taxes.
The increases are expected to generate about $5 billion a year. In June, California voters passed Proposition 69, which restricts the way that funding can be spent: It may only go toward road and transportation projects.
Millions of dollars from the tax increase will fund transportation projects in Kern County and Bakersfield. But if Proposition 6 passes and the tax increase is repealed, work on some projects will immediately stop and “our roads would continue to deteriorate,” according to Ahron Hakimi, executive director of the Kern Council of Governments. Kern County Public Works Director Craig Pope noted the county’s road maintenance costs have gone up 300 percent since the last tax increase in the early 1990s.
NO on Proposition 6. California can't afford to whip a U-turn on this one.
Other statewide propositions on the November ballot:
Proposition 5 – YES. Property Tax Transfer. This will expand to the entire state a property tax break that seniors and severely disabled Californians already enjoy in a few select counties. Proposition 13, which voters approved in 1978, caps property tax rates. Only when a property is sold is it subjected to a higher, market-based tax rate.
Seniors in some counties who wish to move or downsize may be able to apply the lower tax rate to the new home they buy. But they can use this tax break only once. Proposition 5, which voters should support, will allow the rate to be applied to multiple future transactions in all California counties. This is a smart, compassionate way to help California’s growing senior population and to make existing affordable homes available to new buyers.
Proposition 7 – NO. Year-round Daylight Saving Time. This is a bad idea for so many reasons, and a good idea for none. Granted, the decades-long tradition of moving clocks forward one hour in the spring and back in the fall to accommodate daylight saving time and standard time has dubious benefits, other than to annoy sunlight-lovers and clock-change haters, who helped put Proposition 7 on the ballot. But to suggest California should go its own way and adopt daylight saving time as a year-round standard is nuts.
A practical reason not to do this is the danger it poses to school kids and others who will be walking the streets in the dark as winter sets in and the hours of daylight grow shorter. But another consideration is that it probably won’t happen. Proposition 7 would repeal the state’s Daylight Saving Time Act that voters approved in 1949. Converting to year-round daylight saving will require a two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature, approval by Congress, plus the signatures of the governor and president. Does anyone really see that happening in our lifetimes?
Proposition 8 -- NO. Dialysis Clinic Revenue Cap. Let’s make this simple. This is an example of a special interest – in this case, a labor union – using the state’s initiative system to get what it could not get by organizing the workers of the state’s two largest dialysis businesses, DaVita and Fresenius Medical Care. The convoluted formula proponents would impose on company spending and revenues may apply organizing pressure on the companies. But smaller companies contend it could force them out of business and endanger their fragile clients, who depend on dialysis to live. If labor organizers believe the larger companies have not acted in good faith, they should take their beef to the courts, not the voters.
Proposition 10 – NO. Rent Control. Proposition 10, which would lift state limits on local rent control laws, would discourage construction of affordable housing and worsen California’s existing crisis. Voters should reject Proposition 10, which is being falsely presented as an easy way to combat increasing rents and to increase affordable housing. The answer to California’s housing crisis is to build more affordable housing, not to discourage construction.
Proposition 11 -- YES. Ambulance Crews Rest Breaks. Proposition 11 would make it clear that emergency medical technicians and paramedics working for private ambulance companies must remain reachable during paid work breaks so that they can respond immediately when needed. The proposition results from an earlier court ruling that placed the status of on-call workers in question. This is a sensible response. Vote yes.
Proposition 12 – NO. Talk about scrambling the eggs. For voters to even begin to understand “who’s on first” with this crazy proposition, they must go back to Proposition 2, a 2008 ballot measure they passed overwhelmingly in a misguided attempt to make “happy chickens” the law of the land in California.
Yep, you guessed it. The Californian opposed Proposition 2, which set vague standards for the housing of “factory farm animals,” notably chickens, in large cages, or cage-free. While California is not a really big egg producing state, it is a big egg-buying market. By passing Proposition 2, national animal rights groups hoped to coerce really big egg producing states, such as Iowa, to fall into line. California legislators later tightened the screws by passing a law prohibiting the sale of eggs in California that are produced in other states with less restrictive standards. California’s restrictions on egg sales have triggered legal challenges from other states and prompted a new bill in Congress that would prohibit such interference with interstate commerce.
Now, along comes Proposition 12, which appears to be an attempt to clarify the caging requirements in Proposition 2. But some supporters of Proposition 2 are crying fowl. [Yes, it’s a pun.] They claim they were sold out by the Humane Society of the United States, which has teamed up with California egg producers to push back on caging requirements in exchange for expanding the sales prohibition and using the ballot measure for fundraising. Californians should opt out of this food fight by just voting NO.
Voters should support four statewide bond issues on the November ballot:
Proposition 1 authorizes $4 billion in general obligation bonds to provide much-needed funding to build housing for veterans and to help the state alleviate its affordable housing crisis. YES
Proposition 2 will allow the Legislature to issue $2 billion in bonds to funding housing for homeless people with mental health problems. The bonds would be paid off with a portion of the proceeds from Proposition 63, a ballot measure passed by voters in 2004 that imposes a 1 percent tax on incomes of $1 million and above to fund mental health services. For the money to be used for housing, which is essentially addressing the needs of homeless, mentally ill Californians, voters are being asked to give their approval. YES
Proposition 3 is a citizen’s initiative bond to continue the investments in the state’s water supply and water quality. Remarkably, in this partisan environment, valley support for this $8.9 billion bond initiative is crossing party lines. Money from the sale of the bonds will be spent on many critical valley water projects and to provide clean drinking water in communities that now have unsafe water. YES
Proposition 4 authorizes a $1.5 billion bond to expand and improve the network of 13 children’s hospitals that receive more than 2 million visits a year. Some of Kern County’s most critically ill children are rushed to the Children’s Hospital in Madera for specialized treatment. Hospitals are expensive to operate and maintain. Constantly advancing medical technology is expensive to purchase. Investing in the specialized care of our children is worth supporting Proposition 4. YES