Prop. 30 - Tax Increases for Education, Public Safety
Recommended vote: Yes
This measure would mean an increase in fair funding for education, while its defeat would send California deeper into the revenue rabbit hole opened by Prop. 13 three decades ago. In the two years of Jerry Brown's governorship, the state has cut $56 billion from education, health care, and police and fire services, making the state’s stagnation almost permanent. Someone needs to run for governor on a platform solely focused on the disastrous cuts in public higher education. But as for now, Prop. 30 will slow the rate at which things become worse.
Brown carefully crafted this initiative to placate numerous interests who might spend millions of dollars against it, and out of a well-founded worry that California voters have little or no confidence in government anymore. In other words, it is a compromise.
Prop. 30 creates high-income tax brackets for those with taxable incomes exceeding $250,000, $300,000, $500,000 and $1,000,000. The respective taxes rates, which would terminate in seven years, would be 10.3%, 11.3%, 12.3% and 13.3% over the current policy of 9.3%. It also raises California’s sales tax to 7.5% from 7.25%. The revenues will go to public schools, community colleges, police, fire and other social services. The revenue gain is projected to be $50 billion during that time, with at least 40 percent – or $20 billion – dedicated to public schools and community colleges.
There is nothing in this tax increase for higher education, only a guarantee that $250 million will be cut from the UC and CSU budgets if the measure fails. Take that, starving students.
Although, tragically, cataracts have clouded our vision in the political process, Prop. 30 needs our support.
Vote Yes on Proposition 30.
Prop. 32 - No to the Koch Brothers and the “Paycheck Protection” Initiative
Recommended vote: No
This measure will shift greater power to corporations and undercut labor’s influence in California political campaigns. Organized labor has been fighting this battle largely alone, unlike Wisconsin where a vast social movement rose up against right-wing Gov. Scott Walker’s assault on collective bargaining rights. But Prop. 32 is definitely “Wisconsin West,” undermining labor’s role in state and local campaigns. Its money backing is from the American Future Fund, the network connected to the Koch brother billionaires. It is also supported by Charles Munger Jr., brother of Molly Munger, who is funding a tax increase competing with that of Gov. Brown. As long as money rules politics, it appears that Californians will be dominated by family dynasties.
Vote No on Proposition 32.
Prop. 34 - End the Death Penalty
Recommended vote: Yes
Support for this measure is only in the mid-thirty percent range, which could leave a misleading and chilling impression on moderate officials and opinion-makers that California is a hard line law-and-order state where the death penalty is the "third rail" for politicians. Actually, while most Californians favor the death penalty, or are uncomfortable abolishing it, their views on jobs, education, juvenile justice and prison reform run contrary to the old pro-austerity, tax-cutting fever of politics of past decades.
To sweeten this abolition measure, the proponents have added amendments which are popular: it imposes life without possibility of parole, makes convicts work and pay restitution to victims, and allocates $100 million to local police to investigates rapes and murders. The 725 inmates currently on death row would be re-sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
If California has a satanic makeover, becomes Texas and executes over one hundred inmates every year, it will take nearly a decade to empty Death Row. But here's a reality check: only 13 inmates have been executed since 1978. The whole system is dysfunctional, a monument to political stupidity trumping sane public policy.
If the voters only read the top of the ballot, Prop. 34 is in trouble. Sad.
Vote Yes on Proposition 34.
Prop. 36 - Reforming the “Three Strikes” Law
Recommended vote: Yes
Once again, a majority of California voters prefer to roll back the draconian “Three Strikes and You’re Out” legislation, which passed at the height of the “war on crime, war on gangs” in 1994. By a margin of 66-24, voters today support a modest requirement that the third “strike” sentence of 25 years-to-life be based on a conviction for a serious or violent felony. Under current law, the third strike conviction could have been for check-kiting or property theft, even committed years after the earlier offenses. Approximately 3,000 out of 8,800 defendants imprisoned under the 1994 law might be eligible to re-open their third strike sentence if this measure passes.
But we have been here before. In 2004, seeking the coveted endorsement of the state’s prosecutors for their future statewide political ambitions, last-minute scare campaigns by Jerry Brown and Kamala Harris persuaded a slender voter 52.7% majority to maintain the law against a vigorous grass-roots citizen campaign. The conservative argument for Prop. 36 is that it will refocus law enforcement resources on perpetually violent criminals.
Vote Yes on Proposition 36.
Prop. 37 - Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food
Recommended vote: Yes
The insidious penetration of genetic engineering into crops, fish, and our children’s food began in California decades ago. California may be the beginning of the public’s right to know if polls continue to hold. The global agricultural industry is poised to attack this “threat” from California with a $32.5 million advertising blizzard, so the race will tighten. Whole Foods and the organics industry are on the side of labeling, which is still not enough to even the playing field. When I was in the legislature, it was impossible to pass right-to-know-GMO bills out of the agricultural committee, which was rigged to Big Ag’s benefit. It even was impossible to pass legislation assuring a parents’-right-to-know what was in school lunches. And of course it was impossible to stop the threat of “frankenfish,” genetic alteration of wild salmon. Participatory democracy is based on a consumer’s right-to-know.
Vote Yes on Proposition 37.
Proposition 38. Molly Munger’s State Income Tax Increase to Support Education
Fed by billionaire heiress Molly Munger's zealotry, this proposition represents a potential catastrophe of good intentions. The television ads are aimed directly at the more moderate tax increase and education spending measure promoted by the governor (Prop. 30). Munger's proposition is polling at 34 percent, while Brown's has fallen from 59 to 55 percent. If both lose, there will be no tax increases on the rich and school and university funding will be gutted.
Of course it is possible that Munger's personal $31 million spent so far will result in a surprising victory on election day. At the moment, however, it is more likely that she will bring down the only initiative with a chance to raise taxes on the wealthy, invest 40 percent of the new revenues in schools, and prevent a $500 million cut to higher education.
This is another example of dynastic prerogatives overshadowing the democratic process. Brown, of course, is himself the son of a governor, now fighting for a legacy after once proclaiming that "less is more." At least Jerry Brown is an elected official, and twice governor. Mollie Munger, who crafted and largely funds Prop. 38, is the sister of billionaire Charles Munger Jr., who wants to defund union PACs (see Prop. 32). Sounds like script material for Game of Thrones.
Vote No on Proposition 38.