Prop 26

Prop 26: A watershed proposition at a watershed moment 091910

Prop 19, the initiative to legalize and tax marijuana has generated some controversy, but it pales in importance to Prop 26.
Prop 26 does one simple thing: it converts many “fees” to “taxes.”  Simple, but mighty, because “fees” can be raised by simple majority of legislative bodies, but “taxes” have to be approved by 2 of every 3 legislators and voters.  
This would hamstring local governments and, some claim, add $1 billion to the deficit at once and increase it by $11 billion in a few years.
The League of Women Voters has issued a statement:
“Prop 26 is a bait-and-switch by the oil, alcohol, and tobacco industries, in which they are trying to deceive voters into thinking this is about taxes, when it’s really about manufacturers of hazardous products protecting their own bottom lines.”
“No on 26” claims that 92% of funding for proposition 26 comes from oil, tobacco, alcohol and soft drinks; in short those who are depraved of mind and body.
Indeed, supporters of the bill are largely “pro-business” while those against it are largely “pro-social”.   But, at what point is “pro-business” also “pro-social”?   It is true, large corporations like “big oil and tobacco” do favor this law, and it would allow them to escape billions in fees, but not everyone who supports the bill is “big business”.  Here is a partial list of supporters:

California Forestry Association
California Grocers Association
California Hispanic Chambers of
Coalition of Labor, Agriculture &
Business of Santa Barbara County
Family Winemakers of California
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
Latin Business Association
National Federation of Independent
Business - California
Nisei Farmers League
North Valley Hispanic Chamber of
Neighborhood Market Association
Western Agricultural Processors Assn.

There is little doubt that big business is trying to make political hay while the sun is dim, using the poor economy to motivate voters to approve measures which an informed legislature wouldn’t.  A great example is Prop 23, the “anti-AB32 bill” which would delay implementing measures to phase out oil and institute new environmentally appropriate technologies.   Indeed, if Prop 26 passes, AB 32 would be gutted, since the fees would all require 2/3 votes for passage as “taxes”.  

But, is Prop 26 completely without merit simply because rabid capitalists adore it?  Who isn’t sick to death of “fees”?  
Lots of people, who mostly aren’t sick of you paying fees.
Among the opponents of Prop 26 are all the major environmental groups.  There are many reasons environmentalists like to see fees go up, for one thing it generates revenue for “environmental research” which means “jobs for environmentalists.”  It turns out not only chambers of commerce love money.  In addition, increasing the costs of building, particularly building in previously undeveloped areas, is one way “environmentalists” are forcing us into “clusters”.  
The list of those opposing Prop 26 includes the American Lung Association, a major opponent of big tobacco, and the Consumer Federation of California, as well as the League of Women Voters.

What, really, would the results of Prop 26 be, if it passed?  Clearly, fees and costs would drop, since old people don’t vote for schools and young people don’t vote for senior centers.  Times are hard, and people aren’t supporting pro-social causes like they did a few years ago.  It would be simply impossible for counties and even the state to raise the revenue for the services they’ve insisted we need.  

A decade ago this editor would have unquestionably voted against Prop 26; now, the issue isn’t so clear.  The state, and government in general, is threatening to help us to the point we can’t live.  Fees have become the new means by which those who know better than we do control us for our own good.  
Maybe this is how we crack the back of nanny government.  Legislators seem incapable of passing laws which protect our privacy and self determination, maybe changing the fees they charge to taxes will dry up their incentive to help.  In an age where there are no white hats, one has to pick the robber baron one finds least objectionable.  Maybe corporations who simply want to rob us and destroy our health are preferable to bureaucrats and self-appointed saviors who want to help us beyond our necessity.  On the other hand, only those drunk on the heady drug of oil money could believe it’s a good idea to delay AB 32.  

One thing is sure, however: if you vote “yes” on Prop 26, don’t complain if cops don’t come, and firefighters don’t come, or the county can’t afford to plow your road.

Read the bill HERE.

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