Jim de Bree | Understanding the Down-Ballot Props

Jim de Bree
Jim de Bree

My last column discussed the gaming propositions. This column discusses Propositions 28-31. For the first time in many years, the November election does not include any statewide bond measures, which may be an indication of voters’ lack of appetite to saddle taxpayers with additional debt obligations or an indication that California does not need to incur additional debt obligations at this time. 

I will not discuss Proposition 1, which codifies certain women’s reproductive rights into the state Constitution, because people will undoubtedly vote based on their views on abortion and there is not much I can add to that discussion. 

Proposition 28: Art & Music Funding Initiative 

If passed, Proposition 28 would require that 1% of school funding mandated by Proposition 98 be spent on arts and music education. (Proposition 98 was narrowly passed by voters in 1988 to provide that approximately 40% of the California state budget be spent on education.) Furthermore, Proposition 28 directs such spending toward low-income school districts and sets forth funding mechanics. The legislative analyst estimates that $800 million to $1 billion of educational spending will be redirected annually if this measure passes.  

Supporters argue that the measure will fund curricula needed to help ensure the future workforce in media and technology properly reflects the diversity of the children in our public schools. Opponents claim that the proposal will impair school districts’ ability to spend funds when they may be needed elsewhere, particularly in challenging economic times when state tax revenue declines.  

Proposition 29: Dialysis Clinic Reform 

If this proposition makes you feel like you are watching the movie “Groundhog Day,” you are right. Similar measures, Proposition 8 on the 2018 ballot and Proposition 23 on the 2020 ballot, were soundly defeated by voters. This is the latest battle in an ongoing fight between a health care workers’ labor union and the operators of dialysis centers. Among other administrative requirements, the proposition would require certain levels of on-site medical professionals to be present when dialysis is administered.  

Supporters claim that the dialysis centers are run by an ultra-profitable duopoly that underpays the nurses who work there. Opponents argue that the measure will cause treatment centers to close, forcing patients into more expensive hospital settings without improving the quality of care. 

Proposition 30: Tax on Income above $2 Million for Zero-Emissions Vehicles and Wildfire Prevention Initiative 

This measure would increase the tax on personal income above $2 million by 1.75% (to 15.05%) and dedicate the incremental tax revenue to (i) zero-emission vehicle subsidies; (ii) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure, such as electric vehicle charging stations; and (iii) wildfire suppression and prevention programs. 

The legislative analyst estimates that this measure would increase California income tax collections by $3-$4.5 billion annually. However, this is a static revenue analysis, which does not consider the impact of wealthy taxpayers leaving California, so the actual incremental revenue is likely to be less than anticipated. 

Proponents argue the initiative is needed to help California transition to electric vehicles and to fight fires solely at the expense of the top 0.1% of Californians who are most able to afford it.  

The principal argument against the measure is that it is a special interest carve-out by Lyft to fund its transition to electric vehicles. According to Ballotpedia.org, Lyft has contributed $15 million to support the measure. Other arguments are that our taxes are already too high, the revenue source is subject to fluctuation based on economic circumstances and the money is better spent elsewhere.  

Proposition 31: Flavored Tobacco Products Ban Referendum 

The state Legislature overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 793, which was signed into law on Aug. 28, 2020. SB 793 was designed to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products and tobacco product flavor enhancers, with exceptions for hookah tobacco, loose leaf tobacco and premium cigars. Retailers would be fined $250 for each sale violating the law. 

The tobacco industry used the veto referendum process, using petitions signed by registered voters, which puts a law passed by the California Legislature and signed into law by the governor on hold until the people vote on it. 

A “yes” vote on this proposition is to uphold the contested legislation, SB 793, which would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products. 

A “no” vote is to repeal the contested legislation, SB 793, thus keeping the sale of flavored tobacco legal in the state. 

Supporters, who are largely health organizations and health care providers, argue that the law promotes health by banning flavored tobacco products that entice unhealthy tobacco use. They claim that flavored tobacco is illegally used by minors. Opponents, largely tobacco companies, argue the rules set forth under SB 793 are unfair and unnecessary because it already is illegal to sell tobacco products to minors.  

I hope the two columns discussing the propositions have encouraged you to vote and will help you make an educated choice when you cast your vote.  

Jim de Bree is a Valencia resident.

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