My friend Publius is a pretty thorough and clear thinker concerning public policy issues. His work has also made him pretty familiar how politics and government in California work.
I recently asked my friend to share his thoughts concerning this year's California ballot initiatives. I''m passing this on for your interest - also in case, like me, you're finding finding the attack artillery in this year's elections annoying or confusing.
Concerning Prop 19 - neither Publius nor I endorse marijuana smoking. But please note that the measure does not permit driving or working while intoxicated, as some opponents wrongly assert. That much said, here are my friend's comments.
With best greetings,
Recommendations on Some California Ballot Propositions
By Publius (if you don’t know the reference, look it up)
Please forward if you like this !
Prop 19 : Legalize Marijuana—recommend vote “Yes”. Marijuana is by far the most widely used “illegal” drug, with over 100 million people saying they have used it at least once in their lifetime—41% of the population. While not completely harmless, marijuana is relatively benign and much less addictive compared to most other illegal drugs, and even compared to legal substances such as alcohol and many prescription drugs. Marijuana should be regulated and taxed, and should not waste the time and limited resources of law enforcement. The state voter information guide estimates possible revenues of “hundreds of millions of dollars annually” for local governments from taxing marijuana, and savings of “several tens of millions of dollars annually” from reduced enforcement costs. Legalization would also take away billions of dollars per year from organized crime.
I’m sure lots of people are sincere in their moral convictions that they want to impose on everyone else. But “following the money” also sometimes has made me wonder if all the opposition to legalization from people in high places is really all about protecting we the people. It seems there must be a few wolves in sheep’s clothing somewhere in the crowd.
This policy change has support across the political spectrum, from liberal billionaire George Soros to conservative Reagan administration adviser George Schultz. San Jose's former police chief Joe McNamara says "Like an increasing number of law enforcers, I have learned that most bad things about marijuana - especially the violence made inevitable by an obscenely profitable black market - are caused by the prohibition, not by the plant."
Prop 21: Establish $18 annual vehicle license fee surcharge to fund state parks and wildlife programs—recommend “Yes” What’s not to like? $18 a year gives you an annual free pass for day use to any of the hundreds of state parks. It’s fair—everyone pays, so everyone gets in, even if you forgot your wallet. It’s cheap—you would have to be a certified tax and fee Scrooge to begrudge the state $18 a year for running parks that you get to enjoy for free, that are visited by millions of people every year, and for wildlife protection services. While day use is required under Prop 21 to be free to all vehicles that pay the $18 annual surcharge, parks can still charge fees for camping and tours. Prop 21 will increase total money available for parks by up to $250 million; at the same time it will free up to $200 million dollars a year of general funds that currently go to parks, providing a modest and ongoing help to alleviate the state’s multi-billion dollar chronic budget crisis.
Opponents, in their official “Argument Against Proposition 21,” say this will “shift money towards other wasteful spending,” implying that even operating parks makes their list of “wasteful spending.” This is just after they purringly refer to these parks as “California’s true jewels.” Of course, even tax opponents don’t want to look like they hate parks. They just hate paying for them. Talk about “fraud !” On the other hand, if these “taxpayer protection” rackets think that paying for our crown jewels is “wasteful”, it is not difficult to imagine what they think of spending money on more mundane things like schools, libraries, roads and law enforcement—or rescuing the state from financial oblivion.
Prop 23 : Suspend state air pollution law protecting climate—recommend vote “No”. Prop 23 is backed by a list of large, mostly out-of-state oil, coal and chemical polluters with combined revenues of over $200 billion per year—including Valero, Tesoro, Occidental and Koch Industries. California has some of the most innovative laws and policies to protect the environment, and AB 32 the Global Warming Solutions Act is a perfect example. Prop 23 would suspend the state’s climate protection law until unemployment drops below 5.5% for a full year. This has only happened 3 times in the past 40 years, so in effect this puts environmental protections and new green jobs on indefinite hold.
Most climate scientists say that if we don’t act soon, like within the next 5 years, that major, irreversible and very long term change to the earth’s climate is likely. Carbon dioxide and other global warming gases accumulate year by year, and stay in the atmosphere for centuries to thousands of years. California’s climate policy is good for many things beside the climate : it supports renewable solar and wind power, energy efficiency, cleaner fuels and vehicles, recycling and reduced trash, protection of forests, and soil conservation. Investors have already sunk billions of dollars into California counting on us to be the new green economy.
This oil-drenched initiative would keep us hooked on dwindling fossil fuels, breathing dirty air, driving gas guzzling cars, and lock us out of the new clean energy market. Prop 23 is as bad a measure as money can buy.
Prop 26 : Require 2/3 Vote for many government fees—recommend vote “No”. Currently California requires a 2/3rd vote for most tax increases; this measure redefines what a tax is and expands the 2/3 vote requirement to include fees. Many local fees would have get a 2/3 vote of the people to be approved. Prop 26 does not apply to all fees. Fees that directly benefit the person or business paying the fee are exempt. Prop 26 only applies its draconian 2/3 public vote requirement to local fees that benefit the general public—in other words you and I. These would include making businesses pay fees to cover local government costs for providing parking, business district improvements, recycling of used motor oil, bottles and electronic waste, and cleaning up toxic waste that pollutes everyone’s water. Local governments are forbidden by state law from campaigning for any measure on a ballot, so they would be sitting ducks for special interests opposed to the fee increases. Opponents can defeat the fee with a small minority of 1/3 of the people, overriding large majorities of the voters that want the fee.
Prop 26 would require many state fees to get approval of 2/3rds of both houses of the legislature, and would repeal any state law that conflicts with it that was approved since January 2010. The voter information guide says that this will cost the state’s general fund about $1 billion annually for the next 20 years, deepening an already severe budget crisis. Prop 26 will be a disaster for local governments who fled to fees when Prop 13 slammed the door shut on tax increases in the 1970s. Faced with budget crises caused in part by Prop 13, local government turned to fees which have kept many services alive for decades. Prop 26 would slam that door shut as well.
Local and state government provides many services that the vast majority of people want—education, public roads, police and fire protection, an economic safety net for the unemployed, the elderly and handicapped. Taxpayer advocates do a great public service when they chase down fraud, waste and abuse. But Prop 26 goes far beyond that—it also attacks the ability of our government to provide basic services and improve our quality of life. And if we don’t pay for those services, it is we the taxpayers who will lose. Prop 26 is truly spitting in the wind.
Proposition 22—Recommend Vote “No” : Prop 22 is complex, and might protect some local services. It also contains a set of provisions that are unknowable in their effect, such as how much future state and local budgets will change, and the retroactive repeal of conflicting measures that the state has already approved.
While I agree that we have a big problem with state government now going into local tills to cover its budget crises, I think Proposition 22 is too complex and contains too many constraints on the state’s authority. I'm wary of attempts to micromanage the legislature—budgeting at the ballot box. This is supposed, under our system of government, to be the authority of the legislature, and if too many strings are tied then one problem is alleviated while another is made worse. The current budgeting is already hugely complex and difficult because of a maze of constraints on funding from the federal, state and local levels.
Prop 22 might provide a quick fix for some local services, and in that sense it is tempting to vote for it. However, I don’t really think Prop 22 is a correct long-term fix for the problem at hand, which are caused by structural problems in our state’s budgeting and tax authority (which Prop 22 would make even more complex and constrained), as well as the current difficult economic situation.
Prop 25—Strongly Urge “Yes” : Prop 25 is exactly the type of structural change that we DO need to fix state and local budget woes. By itself it will not solve all the problems; but it is an excellent first step. The current requirement to get two thirds vote to pass a budget is dysfunctional beyond belief. It allows a small minority of the legislature—usually just a few legislators— to hold our state budgeting process hostage every single year. The result is legislative gridlock and financial chaos where the state cannot pay its bills and employees must take home IOUs instead of paychecks. So much effort now goes into fixing the budget, while the resulting budget gets so mangled that it causes other problems like the one Prop 22 is trying to address.
Election day is November 2 - please vote early and often !
Jeff Smith RN, born 1950. A registered nurse since 1984 - but holistic in my outlook to health since probably around 1968. Living Waters Wellness considers not just the health of the physical body, but our soul and spirit, our social forms, our environment - and as a matter of fact, our whole earth. It's a new website, and a work in progress - but by all means, have a look around !