Proposition 29: Why should voters care?

Katy Grimes
FlashReport Senior Correspondent

Crossposted on CalWatchdog

There are examples of waste, fraud and abuse in nearly every corner of government.  With the election season upon us, voters need to pay special attention to what is on the ballot.

California’s ballot initiatives say a great deal about the health of the state. There are numerous tax increase proposals on the ballot, despite voters refusing to pass the last seven attempts to increase taxes, including as recently as last year.

The average citizen doesn’t have the power or money to put anything on ballot. The $200 ballot initiative filing fee is not the roadblock–the $2 million needed to get the initiative passed is.

However, ballot initiatives are the best way to speak directly to the voters.  Many initiatives seem important, but the costs and consequences are not always clear.

In California, there is a new tobacco tax ballot initiative which claims the revenue raised would go to cancer research.

Sponsored by Lance Armstrong, tour de France legend and possible future political candidate, the initiative would raise taxes by $735 million, but not contribute a dime to the state’s budget shortfall. And passage of the initiative would create a massive, new state bureaucracy.

But hidden truth about Proposition 29 is that Don Perata, a former state legislator, has been using the June ballot measure’s election fund as his own personal checkbook. Perata has paid nearly $40,000 to an Oakland City Councilman in order to win a contract for one of his lobbying clients, the San Francisco Chronicle and Contra Costa Times reported.

Perata, the former California State Sen. President, was exposed by the Chronicle for paying Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente $37,500 from the fund of Hope 2012, a supporter of the Proposition 29 tax-hike. According to the Chronicle, “In return, De La Fuente was to help generate support among labor groups for the Proposition 29 tax initiative on the June ballot.”

However, none of these payments were properly disclosed by De La Fuente as required by California law.

Moreover, Perata is also actively lobbying De La Fuente on behalf of a client who wants to win a lucrative 10 year contract to manage the city’s sports arena.  As expected, De La Fuente said that failing to disclose the payments was just an “oversight,” according to the Chronicle.

The Oakland Tribune reported Perata’s “Hope 2012” ballot-measure committee began raising money for what’s now known as Proposition 29 way back in 2009, and has transferred $488,500 to Californians for a Cure – the primary committee backing the measure… Now Perata himself has received $5,792.17 since July from Californians for a Cure, including $2,607.19 for “meetings and appearances” and $2,508.36 for travel expenses.”

Proposition 29 hasn’t even hit the June ballot yet, and already the self-dealing and political insider trading has started.

If this group is this fast and loose with its own campaign money, it is not difficult to imagine what they will do when with the nearly $1 billion per year paid by taxpayers.

Perhaps that is why written into Proposition 29 is a clause prohibiting any changes in the spending decision that its politically appointed commission makes, for a full 15 years! And maybe that is why Proposition 29 is written in a way to exempt the CEO from normal state salary requirements, and why that CEO can hire whomever he wants, at whatever salary he chooses.

This ballot initiative is the perfect soft landing for career politicians. Who knows how many termed-out politicians like Perata will be raking in the public money if this law is passed.

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office report about Prop 29 states:

“Increase in new cigarette tax revenues of about $855 million annually by 2011- 12, declining slightly annually thereafter, for various health research and tobacco-related programs. Increase of about $45 million annually to existing health, natural resources, and research programs funded by existing tobacco taxes. Increase in state and local sales taxes of about $32 million annually.”

This ballot initiative is a tax increase under the protective cover of health research. At least the other ballot initiatives which seek to increase taxes are more forthright. Proposition 29 is nothing more than a cushy home for career politicians, addicted to government power, and taxpayer-funded salaries.

Opponents to Proposition 29 include Californians Against Out-of-Control Taxes & Spending, formed to oppose the measure ,Tobacco companies R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris oppose the measure, the California Taxpayers Association, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers AssociationFreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, the California Republican Party and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform.

Supporters of Proposition 29 include “Californians for a Cure,” the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association in California, American Heart Association, American Stroke Association, Lance Armstrong Foundation, Laura Ziskin (co-founder of Stand Up To Cancer), Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and several surgeons and directors of California cancer research institutions including Nobel Laureate Dr Elizabeth Blackburn and Congressional Gold Medal Nominee Dr Balazs Bodai. Tom Torlakson, the California Superintendent of Public Instruction, is also a supporter.

Career politicians already control too much the private sector’s money; a no vote on Proposition 29 at least ensures they won’t get any more.

Read the ballot initiative. There is so much garbage in it, and virtually no oversight, voters should be really angry. This proposition is exactly the kind of politics  California voters are fed up with.

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