Sunday, October 5, 2008

General Guide for California's November 4, 2008

I've recently reviewed California's propositions, and I'm very disheartened. Most of these measures are to authorize the sale of bonds.

Bond measures in California tend to pass, but they shouldn't. A lot of people see the word "bond" and decide that they can raise funds without raising taxes, so they vote yes.

Unfortunately, bond measures do not raise money without raising taxes--eventually. Most bonds end up in a payback of 2 to 1. That's right, if we sell $1 billion in bonds, we'll have to pay back $2 billion over time. It's like using a credit card with horrible terms.

California is in deep financial crisis. We can't incur more debt. The legislature must reign in its spending and live within its means.

Please vote no on all bond measures. All of them.

The real heartbreaker here is Proposition 3. It sells bonds to build and renovate children's hospitals. There is no one who can argue that's a bad cause. It isn't. It's a very good cause, but we must do it another way, not through the sale of bonds.

Two other important measures are Proposition 6 and Proposition 11. Proposition 6 is a tough call. I absolutely support the police and want them to have the funds they need to do their jobs. I still have to vote no on this measure. The reason is that the measure locks in minimum spending at a specific level not tied to crime rate or population. California is losing domestic population, that is, tax base, at a tremendous rate. 90,000 people left California last year for other states in the U.S., a fact masked by newcomers from outside the nation. These new immigrants will be valuable tax base in time. Let's suppose before that happens, the forces driving Californians from this state cause a population emergency as has happened in Massachussets. If California's population dropped to 20 million, for example, there's no provision in this measure to reduce funding to an appropriate level for the reduced population.

Part of California's budgetary problems, besides the massive and undisciplined overspending by our legislature, is mandated spending. In fairness, voters have mandated spending because we don't trust our legislature not to blow tax money on the governmental equivalent of getting their nails done when there are no groceries on the shelves and the electricity bill hasn't been paid. Nevetherless, this mandated spending has the same flaws as Prop 6, and so has caused economic difficulties in implementation. Vote no on Prop 6. I support and appreciate our officers, but this is not the right way to assist them.

Proposition 11 is perhaps the most important measure on the ballot when it comes to the political future of this state. Please vote yes. If you vote on nothing else, please vote yes on proposition 11. The legislators are presently in charge of drawing their own voting districts. This is the proverbial putting the fox in charge of the henhouse, or having a bear guard the honey. The result of the current system is that despite a very low approval rating, our legislative seats never, ever change hands. Each politician is safe and will never be removed from office barring extreme circumstances. The process for choosing voting districts must be taken out of the hands of politicans and put back into the hands of the citizenry. This measure isn't perfect, but don't let perfect get in the way of good enough. This is the first step in building a better system that might actually be responsive to voters. Please vote yes on Proposition 11.

More information on election options is available at the website of the nonpartisan group "Citizen Voice." For more on all the issues, please visit their site here. For brief video debates on all the Propositions, please visit this page of their site.

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