The measures that Californians face on their ballot are invariably borne of political concerns, but this election's group of nine is about as closely related to politics and each other as it is possible to imagine.
Our state is in a budgetary and fiscal crisis that has festered for years. Attempts are being made to resolve the crisis the Republican way (cut taxes and spending) or the Democratic way (increase taxes and spending), so it makes all the difference which approach the voters select.
The one exception to this generalization is Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana, but even that has budgetary implications, as its backers predict huge windfalls from taxation of the weed. Fat chance, for the price will fall. Fortunately, Whitman, Brown, Fiorina and Boxer are opposed.
Propositions 20 and 27 present opposing approaches to the design of legislative districts. The first would extend the principle of a measure passed two years ago that authorized the establishment of independent commissions (instead of the legislature) to draw lines for 80 Assembly and 40 State Senate Districts to the (currently) 53 Congressional districts. The second would repeal the previous measure and put the legislature back in charge.
When one considers that existing apportionment protects all incumbents and freezes a Democratic majority into place, the effect is to favor continuation of the high taxing and spending policies to which Democrats are dedicated. Besides elementary fairness, a necessary step toward ending our recurring budgetary crises is to vote for Proposition 20 and to oppose Proposition 27.
Propositions 21 through 26 deal directly with budgetary matters. The first would impose an annual $18 vehicle license surcharge to help fund state parks and wildlife programs. In the case of parks, those who visit them should be assessed fees, not everyone who drives. Wildlife programs should be financed out of general funds. Vote no.
Proposition 22 strikes back against the state government's raiding of local government funds to ease its budgetary problems. While the state government is supreme, it is irresponsible to avoid budgetary discipline by taking from local governments. Critics have tried to paint this measure as a boondoggle, but that denies the evidence of intergovernmental theft. Vote yes.
Proposition 23 would cut back the state government's oppressive and useless efforts to curb air pollution by requiring businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Until the state's unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent, the measure would suspend that requirement.
Between the massive costs on business (and everyone else) and the questionable claim that global warming will actually be reduced, AB 32 stifles commerce. Proposition 23 would provide a welcome respite. Vote yes.
Proposition 24 would backtrack on a legislative measure from two years ago to permit businesses to lower their tax liability. This was intended to keep businesses from leaving the state and depriving state government of tax monies. This measure would encourage their departure and thus loss of revenue. Vote no.
Proposition 25 would change the constitutional requirement that state budgets be adopted by a two-thirds vote of both Assembly and Senate to a simple majority. Currently, 47 states (and Congress) adopt budgets by the margin here proposed. This is an attempt to prevent long legislative standoffs in which the majority Democrats lack the votes to pass a budget and the minority Republicans have the votes to block it.
People tend to blame both parties for the impasse, but the real problem is the state government's insatiable desire for more programs and multiple sinecures. The current rule allows Democrats to avoid responsibility for their decisions, which is a defect. The two-thirds rule will continues for tax increases, so Republicans will still be able to hold the line. Fixing responsibility is preferable to months without a budget. Vote yes.
Proposition 26 would require that most state and local revenue measures currently called fees be labeled taxes and thus need a two-thirds vote. For example, costs imposed on businesses to avoid harm to the environment are not truly fees because they receive no service and the benefits accrue to all. For years, governments have attempted to avoid the requirement that all taxes must have a two-thirds vote by calling them fees. End that dodge. Vote yes.
Editor's note: These are Richard Reeb's personal recommendations, not the Desert Dispatch's formal positions on these initiatives.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Richard Reeb taught political science, philosophy and journalism at Barstow College from 1970 to 2003. He is the author of " Taking Journalism Seriously: 'Objectivity' as a Partisan Cause" (University Press of America, 1999). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.