Opinion: The Daily Post’s recommendations on the state ballot propositions

DAILY POST EDITORIAL

From rent control to gas taxes, from water projects to property tax valuations, Californians will have a variety of propositions to decide in the fall election. Here’s the Daily Post’s view of the 11 measures on the state ballot.

Prop 9, which would have started the ball rolling on dividing California into three states, was removed from the ballot by the state Supreme Court.

In the coming days, we’ll give our positions on county and local measures and recommend candidates in races.

Prop 1, Housing bond — No

Prop 2, Homeless housing bond — No

Prop 3, Water bond — No

Prop 4, Children’s hospitals bond — No

We recommend a “no” vote on the first four measures, Props 1-4, for the same reasons: The Legislature could have put money for these programs in the state’s annual budget. Instead, these measures ask the voters to approve bonds, which are costly to repay and plunge the state into deeper debt.

The state’s current bonded debt stands at $73 billion, or $1,848 for every person in California. We’re charging too much on the credit card. Worse, the cost to repay a bond is typically twice the principal. The rest goes off to Wall Street in the form of interest and broker fees. Why pay twice when you don’t have to? And, morally, it’s not right to saddle this generation’s spending on the backs of our children and grandchildren.

If these propositions are important, the Legislature should finance them through the state’s budget, now at $200 billion, with a $9 billion surplus.

Two of the measures, Props 1 and 2, deal with housing. Locally, voters have been generous when it comes to housing. In 2016, 68% of Santa Clara County voters supported Measure A, a $950 million bond measure for affordable housing. In that same election, 70% of San Mateo County voters renewed a half-cent sales tax known as Measure K, and one of its stated purposes was to fund housing. About 28% of Measure K will go to housing. So when it comes to housing, you shouldn’t feel guilty that you’re not supporting Props 1 and 2.

Similar story with Prop 3, the water bonds. In June, California voters approved Prop 68, which authorized the sale of $4 billion in water bonds.

In fact, since 1996 there have been eight statewide bond measures for water, racking up $29 billion in debt. We don’t have much more water as a result of these propositions because most of the money has gone for environmental projects and very little for water storage or maintenance of existing dams.
With $29 billion in water funds, you’d think the state could have done a better job maintaining the Oroville Dam, which nearly failed last year.

Instead of increasing storage capacity, Legislators passed a law limiting water use to 55 gallons per resident per day for residential use. And this water bond will be costly. While the price tag on the ballot is $8.9 billion, the actual cost will be $17 billion.

If Prop 4, the children’s hospital bond measure, looks familiar, that’s because it was on the ballot in 2004 as Prop 61 ($750 million) and 2008 as Prop 3 ($980 million). Both times it passed. Now the amount is $1.5 billion, and the money would be awarded to 13 children’s hospitals, including Lucile Packard in Palo Alto, which has spent $1.36 million on the Prop 4 advertising campaign.

The actual cost of Prop 4, including interest and fees, will be $2.9 billion, though you won’t see that number on the ballot. We agree with the supporters that these hospitals provide a vital service, but we disagree over this form of financing. The Legislature should put $1.5 billion in the state budget for children’s hospitals and not force taxpayers to pay the additional $1.4 billion in interest and fees for this kind of financing.

Prop 5, Eliminate the moving penalty — Yes

Prop 5 will eliminate the “moving penalty” that traps many seniors in their homes. You’re probably familiar with this story. A couple buys a house when they have young children and need the room. After the children grow up and move out, many couples find themselves in houses larger than they need. But they remain in the large house because if they bought a smaller house, the property taxes on a newly purchased home would be much higher. Prop 5 fixes that.

It allows homebuyers who are age 55 or older or severely disabled to transfer the tax-assessed value from their prior home to their new home, no matter what the new home’s value might be.

It’s not only fair to seniors and the disabled, but it will result in tens of thousands of homes hitting the market that will be available to young families, addressing an important aspect of the housing crisis. This is a win-win situation for seniors and young families.

Prop 6, Repeal the gas tax — Yes

Prop 6 repeals the 12-cent-a-gallon gas tax, the 20-cent diesel tax, a new $100 fee for zero-emission vehicles and an additional tax ranging from $25 to $200 a year based on a car’s value. It also requires voter approval for any future increase in such taxes.

Our opinion is that these increases should have been put to the voters originally. With Prop 6, you, the taxpayer, can decide for yourself if you want to be taxed for transportation improvements.

The politicians, unions and contractors funding the No on 6 campaign will say that the transportation improvements are desperately needed. Yet in the past, tax hikes for transportation projects have been diverted for other purposes in California. Legislators know they can do the old bait-and-switch ploy on the public by saying a tax increase will go for something popular like reducing congestion and then use the money for a pet project that has nothing to do with congestion.

If the taxes are repealed, there will still be money for transportation needs. The current state budget allocates $22.5 billion for transportation, and only $2.8 billion comes from the taxes Prop 6 would repeal. With a $9 billion budget surplus, the state won’t lack money for transportation. Saying otherwise is a scare tactic.

Proponents of Prop 6 estimate the gas tax hike will cost the typical family $779 a year. To the well-to-do, that’s not much of a hit. But for people who are struggling with the high cost of living, this is a serious hit. Once again, our politicians tell us that they are on the side of the poor and middle class, but every chance they get, they kick them in the teeth. If you believe in social justice, then you’ll vote “yes” on Prop 6 and repeal these taxes and fees. This is just one more thing our government is doing to make the cost of living here impossible for many people.

Prop 7, Permanent Daylight Saving Time — Yes

Let’s eliminate the outdated practice of switching our clocks in the fall and spring. It’s a myth that switching to Daylight Saving Time saves energy. Several studies have debunked this idea.

But the twice-a-year clock changes increase the number of accidents and even strokes. Since 2000, 14 countries have stopped changing their clocks. Arizona, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands don’t change their clocks either. Prop 7 allows California to consider making Daylight Saving Time or Standard Time our year-around time. If approved by voters, a permanent switch will still require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.

Prop 8, Dialysis clinic profit regulation — No

Prop 8 is a dangerous, cynical proposal by SEIU-UHW West to recruit more dialysis center technicians into their union.

Prop 8 is a complicated scheme that essentially limits what dialysis clinics can charge to 15% above what is spent directly for patient care by nurses and technicians and the equipment and supplies they use. Clinic directors and the doctors who oversee operations at these clinics would have be paid from the 15%, leaving almost no room for profits.

As a result, many of the state’s 577 dialysis centers will close, flooding emergency rooms with the 139,000 kidney patients who will die if they don’t have their blood cleansed of toxic substances several times per week.

The medical community, led by the National Kidney Foundation and the California Medical Association, has come out strongly against Prop 8.

If Prop 8 would lead to better care and lower patient bills, we’d support it. But this measure is a disgusting attempt by a union to put the lives of sick people at risk in order to sign up more members.

Prop 10, Expansion of rent control — No

Put aside all of the propaganda you’ve heard about rent control for a moment and think about how markets work. When supply increases, demand usually goes down as do prices.

Prop 10 expands rent control, which causes property owners to take apartments off the market and discourages investors from funding new housing. Why, in the midst of a serious housing crisis, would anybody in their right mind want to reduce the supply of apartments?

Prop 10 repeals the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, a move that would allow cities to expand rent control to apartments built after 1995. It would also allow cities to apply rent control to condos and single-family homes that are rented.

The vast majority of economists say rent control doesn’t work. It not only reduces the supply of housing, it discourages the maintenance of apartments, giving a community within a few years a run-down look. The solution to the housing crisis is to build more apartments, not restrict rents. Prop 10 will hurt the very people it is intended to help.

Prop 11, Ambulance workers’ breaks — Yes

The question is whether ambulance companies can require their workers to remain on-call during breaks, during which they would be paid at their regular rate.

In 2016, the California Supreme Court ruled that employer-required on-call rest breaks violated state labor law, and that such breaks must be considered off-duty and uninterruptable. A private ambulance company, American Medical Response or AMR, paid to put this question on the ballot. Voters are being asked to overturn the court’s decision and allow ambulance companies to remain on-call during breaks. It would only apply to private-sector ambulance companies, not the local fire department.

We would urge a “yes” vote on Prop 11 because, if this ruling were to stand, EMTs and paramedics would have to remain unreachable while on paid breaks and cannot be dispatched to a 911 call to provide lifesaving care, even if the emergency is around the corner. These workers will get breaks — paid at their regular rate — so nobody loses here. In fact, there is no opposition argument in the Voter Guide and no group has formed to oppose Prop 11.

If Prop 11 fails, private ambulance companies would have to add more crews to cover for the time when workers are on breaks, and in rural areas that would become a severe cost concern.

Prop 11 is a sensible proposal where nobody loses. It’s unfortunate that this even had to reach the ballot. It’s an example of how dysfunctional our state Supreme Court has become, how it doesn’t consider practical concerns in its rulings. This dispute should have been resolved by the courts and this proposition shouldn’t have gone to the voters.

Prop 12, Farm animals — No

In 2008, California voters passed Prop 2 that banned the confinement of pregnant pigs, calves raised for veal and egg-laying hens in a manner that did not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up or fully extend their limbs or wings. Prop 2 didn’t specify the number of square feet allowed for each animal.

Now the Humane Society has launched a campaign to have voters pass a proposition that specifies cage sizes and set up a state agency to enforce the rules, with fines up to $1,000. The Humane Society is also using the campaign to raise money for themselves.

The Association of California Egg Farmers and the National Pork Producers Council oppose Prop 12, saying the required changes would increase food prices and create meat and egg shortages. Several animal rights organizations including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA have also come out against Prop 12, saying it would keep animals in cages at a time when cage-free farm products are becoming popular with consumers.

We’re against Prop 12 for a couple of reasons. First, the ballot box is the wrong place to regulate agriculture at this level of detail. Second, the California Farm Bureau says egg production has dropped and prices have jumped by 33% since Prop 2 passed a decade ago. Prop 12 will make the situation worse.

There’s no need for a second set of rules,. It’s a rare situation when the farm industry and animal rights advocates like PETA are on the same side of a controversy. That ought to tell you something. Sadly, it seems like the Humane Society put this on the ballot to use the controversy as a way to raise funds.

8 Comments

  1. I’ve got to disagree with you on Prop 6, our highways are way beyond the point of needing repair … the cost is nominal compared to the benefit of replacing dangerous bridges and highways. Voting Yes is penny wise and pound foolish. The car repairs one will have as a result of our poorly maintained roads will exceed any savings you get at the pump by repealing this tax.

  2. Proposition 12 is an outright scam.
    This measure was co-written by United Egg Producers and would explicitly legalize cruel battery cages in California until at least 2022. And it would forever confine hens inside massive factory farms that restrict hens to only one square foot floor space per bird!

    No one should fall for HSUS’s bogus claims that this will regulate the sale and production of veal and pork from other states. That cynical and constitutionally flawed window dressing will never survive the inevitable years of legal challenges. It was only inserted into the initiative to distract from its massive sell-out to the egg industry.

    Find out why Californians Against Cruelty, Cages, and Fraud, the Humane Farming Association (HFA), Friends of Animals (FoA), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and many others are strongly opposing the measure.
    Please visit NoOnProposition12.org

  3. Well said – no on prop 10:

    Prop 10 expands rent control, which causes property owners to take apartments off the market and discourages investors from funding new housing. Why, in the midst of a serious housing crisis, would anybody in their right mind want to reduce the supply of apartments?

  4. Palo Alto city council made the right decision to say No to Prop 10.

    Prop 10 is harmful both to landlords as well as tenants. The only way to solve the housing crisis is to provide more supply, and rent control is going exactly the opposite way. It discourages people to rent their homes out, and demotivates developers to build more affordable housing.

  5. I agree on Prop 12. Food prices are already too high. And if consumers want “cage free” eggs, they’re right there in the dairy section next to all the other eggs. No need for another law. No on 12.

  6. The editorial board seems to have not done its homework on Proposition 2:

    Unlike the three other bond measures, its funding and debt-service monies are already provided in the form of the $2.24 billion (and growing) in mental health services funds generated by Prop. 63 in 2004, which added a tax on incomes over $1 million for such services. The problem with Prop. 63 is that it doesn’t permit spending any of that money for construction of permanent supportive housing, without which Prop. 63 can’t work properly. Prop. 2 permits diversion of $140 million per year from the Prop. 63 revenue stream to pay for construction bonds, to fix this problem. It doesn’t add to state bonded indebtedness.

    Don’t take my word for it. The estimable Pete Stahl, who does expert analysis of all California ballot propositions at his site peterates.com has a good explanation at this year’s write-up.

    I do my own documentation and analysis of the entire ballot at my own personal Web pages (am not sure the URL is welcome here, but it’s easy to find). For what it’s worth, I strongly recommend against the other three bond measures out of concern over California’s still-too-high debt-service ratio (DSR), but make an exception for Prop. 2 because it does NOT worsen that problem.

    — Rick Moen
    rick@linuxmafia.com

  7. @Rick Moen makes it sound as if the money to repay the bonds issued under Prop 2 would be free money. As I recall, the money would be coming from the mental health tax imposed on people who make over $1 million. This tax would primarily affect people who, for one tax year, make over $1 million because they inherited a property. So it’s nothing more than an estate tax or a death tax. To imply that the money for Prop 2 has already been paid for is wrong. I’m voting against Prop 2 and all other bonds on the ballot. I want the state to keep their hands out of my pockets!

  8. No, I most certainly did not say or imply that Prop. 63 funds are ‘free money’. (And no, it’s not a ‘mental health tax’, but rather part of the proceeds from state income tax.)

    What I said was that the bonds would not be paid back or serviced from General Fund monies, unlike the three other bond measures on the California ballot, hence the Daily Post’ editorial board’s objections about “costly to repay and plunge the state into deeper debt” do not apply. It doesn’t increase state debt, it doesn’t drive up the debt-service ratio (DSR), etc.

    The point is that the Prop. 63 funds are present and in the state’s coffers, and accruing at the rate of a reported $2b per year (if I remember correctly), and those cannot fruitfully be used without contracting permanent supportive housing. To the best of my recollection, state law doesn’t permit the Prop. 63 funds to be used for other purposes, either. So, the question is whether California’s voters want the Prop. 63 initiative to remain dysfunctional, or whether it wants to pass a bond measure funded by a portion of the Prop. 63 money that makes the rest of the Prop. 63 programs work properly.

    But my main point is that the editors are simply mistaken in lumping in Prop. 2 with the others, as its funding would be radically different. The editorial should be corrected.

    — Rick Moen
    rick@linuxmafia.com

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