Business and Tax Ballot Measures

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Last week, the Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon reported that the business community is not engaging on the big tax fights appearing on the November ballot: Proposition 55, the income tax extension and Proposition 56, the increased tobacco tax. While business leaders say the positions taken is colored by political circumstances around these particular measures, business must stay clear of the trap in which numerous tax increases add up to a suffocating tax burden.

Dillon noted the shift in position of business from 2012 when the California Chamber of Commerce opposed the cigarette tax and stayed neutral on Proposition 30’s income and sales tax increases. Today, CalChamber has no position on the tobacco tax and, while officially opposed to the Prop 55 tax extension, is expending no effort or money to defeat it.

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Nonpartisan Voter Guide Simplifies California’s Most Complex Election in Decades

Jack Citrin and F. Noel Perry
Jack Citrin is Director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. F. Noel Perry is the Founder of Next 10, a nonprofit that seeks to foster a deeper understanding of issues facing California.

It’s been called the most important election in our lifetimes. Indeed, the 2016 election will go down in history as truly unusual and at times, unpredictable. Here in California, voters have taken note, with registrations hitting a record high. But this year, the nearly 18 million California voters heading to the polls in November will face the most complex and expensive statewide election in decades. In this intense political climate, it’s never been more important that voters have access to unbiased, comprehensive ballot information.

This is why Next 10 and UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies created California Choices – an interactive, nonpartisan voter guide that helps Californians through the voting process. The tool not only offers in-depth background information on each proposition, but also provides voters with endorsements from more than 40 organizations and entities from across the political spectrum. The California Choices Endorsement Table summarizes ballot measure endorsements for all 17 initiatives in one easy-to-view page.

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L.A.’s Measure M: Long Range Spending Based on Short Term Thinking  

Norm King
Norm King served as city manager in three Southern California cities and is the former executive director of the San Bernardino Transportation Commission.

Los Angeles County is potentially poised to inflict a “forever” sales tax on itself and spend a majority of the funds in ways which cannot possibly produce what its supporters claim.  Advocates appear oblivious to transit ridership trends and new technologies which will make Measure M an expensive and futile experiment.

Metro’s CEO Phillip Washington has stated that Metro’s goal is to convert 20-25% of the county’s population into regular transit riders.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that these new riders will have to be “choice” riders. Choice riders, those who have access to a car and yet choose to ride transit, constitute less than 20% of Metro ridership and less than 2% of total passengers.  The non-choice market is saturated. To achieve a 20-25% market share would require attracting 10 to 15 times the number of existing choice riders. Metro’s transit’s goal is unobtainable and creates false expectations.

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Oracle’s Marriott

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Checking in on my grandmother early one morning last week in San Mateo, I picked up the local paper to read the news: Oracle had bought the local Marriott hotel. If you spend time on Bay Area roads, you’ve driven by it, near the intersection of the 101 and the 92.

Ho-hum news, until a column in the San Francisco Chronicle revealed the reason: Oracle needs the hotel because it can’t find space to train new employees.

That’s right—one of America’s richest companies, in America’s richest region, can’t find space to train its employees. What better example of California’s total failure to build housing, facilities and all kinds of infrastructure to keep up with its growth?

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CA National Guard Should Keep Bonuses

Congressman Kevin McCarthy
Majority Leader, United States Congress

It is disgraceful that the men and women who answered their country’s call to duty following September 11 are now facing forced repayments of bonuses offered to them. Our military heroes should not shoulder the burden of military recruiters’ faults from over a decade ago. They should not owe for what was promised during a difficult time in our country.

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Are Bonds Free?

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Voters in California have hundreds of local bonds to consider in this election but I suspect many voters don’t understand how the bonds are funded. They won’t find out by reading ballot summaries.

I can’t speak for all the bond summaries throughout the state, but I looked over the 24 bonds on Los Angeles County ballots on the County’s webpage and not once did I read that the bonds are paid for by an increase in property taxes. Do you think that simple statement might change the results of bond elections?

In the private sector, the Federal Trade Commission enforces truth in advertising laws. We could use some truth in ballot information in the public sector, too.

Practically all the summaries dealing with the bonds funding homelessness issues or school repairs tell the voters that the millions of dollars in bonds would be acquired at the legal rates. The bond summaries say what the bonds will be used for. Sometimes a bond summary mentions a citizens oversight committee or periodical audits or that the money cannot be used for salaries or pensions.

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Prop 67 Should Be Prop 51

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

The long statewide ballot, with 17 different measures, demonstrates many things wrong with California-style direct democracy.

Here’s another one: we put referenda last, when they should be first.

The terms referendum and initiative are often used interchangeably, especially by out-of-state media (yes, I’m looking at you, Washington Post). But they are different. A referendum is a public vote on a law passed by the legislature. It has gone through a process of hearings and review, and deserves more respect than an initiative, which is a proposed law or constitutional amendment that is drafted privately and outside the legislative process.

Since referenda are different, they should be placed separately on the ballot. Instead, they are by rule listed along with initiatives – and they come last. That’s why the referendum among the 17 measures, on the state’s ban on single-use plastic bags, comes last, at Prop 67.

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Goodbye Payphones, Hello Progress

Kish Rajan
Chief evangelist of CALinnovates, is a non-partisan coalition of tech companies, founders, funders and non-profits focused on the new economy and economic prosperity.

If Clark Kent wanted to turn into Superman in California today, he’d struggle to find a phone booth. Across the entire state there are only 27,000 payphones left, down 70% from 2007.

It’s no big surprise that the payphone is going the way of the dodo bird. According to the Pew Research Center 92% of American adults own cellphones. If you’re desperate to make a call and find yourself with a dead battery, chances are good you’re going to ask a friendly stranger to borrow their cell phone before you’re going to search out a payphone.

Late last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that acknowledges the demise of the payphone. SB 1055 puts an end to the Payphone Services Committee and the Payphone Service Providers Committee Fund which was being used to, among other things, “fund programs to … educate consumers on matters related to payphones.”

Let that sink in for a second. As a state, until a few weeks ago, we were still spending money to educate people about payphones — something the vast majority of citizens don’t want or need.

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The New War Between the States

Joel Kotkin
Editor of and Presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University

In this disgusting election, dominated by the personal and the petty, the importance of the nation’s economic geography has been widely ignored. Yet if you look at the Electoral College map, the correlation between politics and economics is quite stark, with one economy tilting decisively toward Trump and more generally to Republicans, the other toward Hillary Clinton and her Democratic allies.

This reflects an increasingly stark conflict between two very different American economies. One, the “Ephemeral Zone” concentrated on the coasts, runs largely on digits and images, the movement of software, media and financial transactions. It produces increasingly little in the way of food, fiber, energy and fewer and fewer manufactured goods. The Ephemeral sectors dominate ultra-blue states such as New York, California, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Connecticut.

The other America constitutes, as economic historian Michael Lind notes in a forthcoming paper for the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, the “New Heartland.” Extending from the Appalachians to the Rockies, this heartland economy relies on tangible goods production. It now encompasses both the traditional Midwest manufacturing regions, and the new industrial areas of Texas, the Southeast and the Intermountain West. 

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Election Outcome Maybe Predictable, What Happens Next is Not

Richard Rubin
He writes about political issues and is President of a Public Affairs Management Firm. He also teaches courses on the Presidential & Congressional Elections at the University of San Francisco and is Vice Chair of the California Commonwealth Club.

What may be most telling in the final anticlimactic debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is not a strong premonition of how this race is likely to end——but what could happen after it.

Trump responding to moderator Chris Wallace’s query as to whether he would accept the results of the election answered without hesitation, “You’ll just have to wait and see.”

“What I’m saying is I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense,

At that moment millions of TV viewer’s jaws no doubt dropped across the land!

The response in itself has enough shock value to reverberate for the remainder of the campaign and wiped out any good Trump had done for himself in the first 20 minutes or so of the debate in which there was quite unexpectedly actual substantive discussion and some evidence of decorum.

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