Editorials

From gas tax to rent control, here are The Tribune’s recommendations on 11 statewide props

Repeal of the state gas tax could delay regional projects in San Luis Obispo County, including congestion relief for Highway 101 through Shell Beach, as seen here.
Repeal of the state gas tax could delay regional projects in San Luis Obispo County, including congestion relief for Highway 101 through Shell Beach, as seen here. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Proposition 6 — the repeal of the state gas tax — has been getting most of the attention during this campaign season, but there are plenty of other important ballot measures facing California voters. Those include billions of dollars in bond measures for affordable housing, water projects and children’s hospitals; a proposal to expand Proposition 13 property tax breaks for homeowners over 55; and a bid for year-round daylight savings time.

Here are The Tribune’s recommendations on the 11 propositions on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Proposition 1 — $4 billion bond measure for affordable housing: YES

Prop. 1 provides $1.5 billion to construct and rehab apartments for low-income Californians and $1 billion in home loans for veterans. It also funds infrastructure; farmworker housing; down payment assistance for first-time home buyers; and housing for victims of domestic violence, among other programs.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates repayment will cost $170 million per year for the next 35 years, which works out to about one-tenth of 1 percent of the state’s current general fund budget. Given California’s housing predicament, it’s worth it.

Also, every $1 that California invests in housing can be leveraged to generate nearly $4 in federal tax credits, local funds and private investments. It also creates construction jobs and other spin-off employment.

Proposition 2 — Housing for mentally ill Californians: YES

This proposition is supported by both the Republican and Democratic parties, making it the rare issue that every voter should be able to get behind.

Prop. 2 channels revenue from the existing 1 percent tax on millionaires into housing programs for mentally ill people who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless.

The millionaires tax, which was approved by voters in 2004, generates between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion per year. Yet existing restrictions on how that money can be used prohibit it from being spent on housing — ironic, given that some counties have been sitting on millions in unspent revenue from the tax.

Bottom line: Prop. 2 creates additional housing for a vulnerable population — with an existing source of revenue.

Proposition 3 — $8.9 billion bond measure for water projects: NO

This would be the largest water bond in state history, and while it would be a boon for the Central Valley and other pockets of California, there’s not that much in it for the rest of us.

Here’s what The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board has to say: “Proposition 3 is not merely a request for money, but an effort to force taxpayers all across the state to pay costs that ought to be borne by the private or regional interests that will benefit.”

Repayment would cost $430 million per year for 40 years, and for the many Californians who would not directly benefit. That’s not nearly enough bang for so many bucks.

Asking the Tough Questions

This election matters. From local city council races to California’s ballot propositions, The Tribune is committed to providing the best political coverage on the Central Coast.

And after the ballots are counted, our reporters work to hold elected officials accountable and ask the tough questions you need answered.

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Proposition 4 — $1.5 billion bond measure for children’s hospitals: YES

Funds would go toward building, expanding and equipping children’s hospitals. The major beneficiaries would be eight private, nonprofit hospitals and five University of California hospitals, though other hospitals that treat children would be eligible to apply for funds.

Medical science is advancing rapidly, but outdated, under-equipped hospitals cannot keep up with the demands of a growing patient population. Also, research conducted at children’s hospitals plays a role in keeping all children healthy, and that translates into a healthier population of California adults.

Proposition 5 — Expands Prop. 13 tax break for older Californians: NO

Under the existing rules of Proposition 13, homeowners who are over 55 or are severely disabled may sell their residence and buy a new one, without seeing a huge increase in property taxes. This is a one-time offer, however.

Proposition 5 would change that. It would allow older homeowners to move as many times as they like and still get a tax break. As a result, schools and local governments would each lose $100 million per year, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

The principle behind a one-time tax break makes sense: It allows older homeowners to downsize without being penalized by a huge jump in property taxes, and theoretically, that frees up larger, older homes for new homeowners.

But once is enough.

Proposition 13 already is tough on young homebuyers, who can wind up paying thousands of dollars more in property taxes than their older neighbors living in comparable homes purchased many years ago. Giving older Californians an even bigger tax break will only exacerbate that inequity.

Proposition 6 — Repeal of state gas tax increase: NO

Repealing the SB 1 gas tax and vehicle license fee increases will save some money over the short-term; Curbed Los Angeles estimates the average driver will save about $1 per fill-up. But think of the costs: Wear and tear on our cars. More time spent waiting in traffic, because there will be far less money for congestion relief. Even more injuries and deaths, since local and regional governments will have to put off repairing deteriorated roads and dangerous intersections.

That also means increased liability for government agencies; for example, Los Angeles has paid out millions of dollars to bicyclists badly injured when they hit dangerous potholes the city had neglected to fix.

Keep in mind, too, that Prop. 6 won’t just repeal the latest tax increase, it also will raise the bar for passing future gas tax increases.

Here’s what we would lose locally: Over the next 10 years, the gas tax is expected to generate between $970 million and $1.4 billion for San Luis Obispo County communities. That’s money already being used to repair local streets and roads, as well as to fund regional projects, such as improvements to the “Y” intersection at Highway 41/46. Many of our roads already are in poor condition. If this revenue goes away, they will further deteriorate — and cost even more to repair down the road.

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Proposition 7 — Allows the state Legislature to change daylight savings time: NO

This would allow the Legislature to switch California to year-round daylight savings time, provided the change is allowed under federal law.

Year-round DST has been tried before; President Nixon signed The Emergency Daylight Savings Time Act in 1974 as an energy-savings measure. It was supposed to remain in effect for 16 months, but there was one thing lawmakers didn’t take into account: the ire of parents whose kids were going to school when it was still pitch dark outside. The experiment was dropped months ahead of schedule.

Besides, this is a change that affects every one of us, so why would we give the Legislature the power to decide this? The ultimate decision should be up to the voters.

Proposition 8 — Caps revenue of kidney dialysis providers: NO

This is one of the most complicated and controversial propositions on the ballot. It’s also an extraordinarily expensive campaign. According to the Associated Press, dialysis companies have spent $111 million to defeat the measure — the most any one side has spent on a U.S. ballot issue since at least 2002..

So who’s behind it?

The Sacramento Bee editorial board describes it as “another power play by Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, which is trying to organize clinic workers and force more hiring.”

Supporters say it could result in lower costs for patients.

But the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office says some clinics could close and fewer newer ones would open, and the National Kidney Association, the American Nurses Association of California, the California Medical Association and the California chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians all oppose the measure.

Reform may be needed in this area, but the ballot box isn’t the place to do it.

Proposition 10 — Allows local governments more leeway to pass rent control: YES

This may be the most misunderstood and vilified measures on the ballot. It does not force rent control on Californians; what it does is restore the power of local cities and counties to pass the rent control ordinances they deem appropriate.

That ability was restricted by the passage of a state law in 1995. It put three major limitations on rent control ordinances:

  1. They can’t apply to single-family homes

  2. They can’t apply to housing built on or after Feb. 1, 1995

  3. They can’t limit what landlords can charge new tenants

Proposition 10 would repeal that law, but would still require that landlords receive “a fair rate of return” if rent control is enacted.

This is all about local control. Given the untenable cost of rental housing in many parts of the state, local communities should be able to craft solutions that work for them, without undue interference from Sacramento.

If you’re worried that passage of this measure could bring rent control to SLO, that’s highly unlikely. Look what happened when the city passed a rental inspection ordinance: It was overturned.

Proposition 11: Requires private ambulance crews to remain on-call during breaks: YES

This measure arises from a legal ruling on a case involving a security guard who was required to be on-call during breaks. The California Supreme Court ruled that violates state labor law, which requires employers to provide uninterrupted, off-duty breaks for workers.

It appears likely that court decision would also apply to EMTs, which was the impetus for this ballot measure. If it passes, it will allow private-sector employers to continue to require ambulance crews to remain on-call during breaks.

Statewide, it could cost ambulance companies as much as $100 million per year in additional staffing and equipment costs if they had to provide ambulance crews with off-duty breaks. According to the Legislative Analyst, counties that contract for ambulance services would probably bear most of those costs.

The initiative does include some new benefits for ambulance crews. Breaks will have to be at least two hours apart, and can’t be during the first or last hour of a shift. It also requires private ambulance companies to provide training and mental health services for their employees.

Proposition 12: New standards for certain farm animals: NO

Egg-laying hens, breeder pigs and calves raised for veal would be covered under this initiative, which builds on Proposition 2 — The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act — passed by voters in 2008. Prop. 2 prohibited farmers from keeping hens, pregnant pigs and calves in cramped cages or crates so small that animals could not turn around, lie down or stretch their limbs (or wings).

Proposition 12 calls for a phase-in of new minimum, square-footage requirements, and by 2022, egg-laying hens could no longer be kept in cages.

Not even animal welfare groups are in agreement on this one. The Humane Society of the United States supports it; People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and and the Humane Farming Association say it doesn’t go far enough.

“It keeps hens in cages until 2022 and then leaves them in crammed warehouses with one square foot of space thereafter. We think we can do more and we should do more,” PETA spokesman Ben Williamson told The Los Angeles Times.

That’s concerning. Animal welfare groups need to stop fighting, join forces and at least attempt to write a measure that has their broad support.

In the meantime, consumers can apply pressure to the producers. If you’re concerned about animal welfare, shop for cage-free eggs at the supermarket or, even better, buy fresh eggs at local farmers markets. And how about just saying no to veal?

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