California: Here Are the 11 Ballot Measures You Get to Decide on in November


California: Here Are the 11 Ballot Measures You Get to Decide on in November

2018-10-05T10:16:52+00:00October 5th, 2018|Advocacy, Local Updates|

“Here’s the final list of propositions that made the cut for the November election. On the list are proposals to slash the gas tax, re-introduce rent control, absolve major corporations of their legal debt, and borrow billions to fund houses, hospitals, and water canals.

Propositions on the November 2018 California ballot

Reported by Ben Christopher. Interactive by John Osborn D’Agostino.

PROP 1: AFFORDABLE HOUSING BOND

WHAT IT DOES

Give the state permission to borrow $4 billion to fund affordable housing construction ($3 billion) and to subsidize home loans for veterans ($1 billion).

HOW IT GOT ON THE BALLOT

In the fall of 2017, state lawmakers went all in on housing, passing a cluster of bills aimed at subsidizing and streamlining new development. This bond, introduced by state Sen. Jim Beall from San Jose, was the product of one of those bills.

ESTIMATED COST

Will increase state costs $171 million per year for 30 years.

SUPPORTING ARGUMENTS

The state faces an unprecedented housing crisis. This money will be used to build and rehabilitate rental units for those making under a certain income, for grants to local governments for the construction of new units around public transit stations, and home loan assistance to Veterans.

OPPOSING ARGUMENTS

This bond will result in a one time boost in housing construction, a blip in supply that will do nothing to combat the long-term and persistent shortage that the state faces. For that minimal benefit, taxpayers will be saddled with billions more in debt.

PROP 2: MENTAL HEALTH MONEY FOR HOUSING

WHAT IT DOES

Give the state permission to borrow $2 billion to fund supportive housing for those suffering with mental illness and to repay the cost of that bond with money set aside for mental health services.

HOW IT GOT ON THE BALLOT

In 2004, voters approved Proposition 63, which hiked the income tax on millionaires by 1 percent in order to fund mental health services and related programs. Twelve years later, state lawmakers passed a bill to spend $2 billion on permanent supportive housing for those suffering from mental illness and to fund it out of the Prop 63 account. But a Sacramento lawyer sued, arguing that voters didn’t sign off on housing construction or servicing new debt in 2004. Counties are now sitting on millions of dollars reserved for the homeless and unsure how to spend it. Rather than wait out the court battle, state lawmakers are taking the question to voters.

ESTIMATED COST

Based on typical long-term bond costs, this will likely increase state costs by an extra 100 million per year for the next 40 years on average.

SUPPORTING ARGUMENTS

Providing housing paired with social and health services is one of the most effective ways to help the chronically homeless who suffer from mental illness. This is entirely within the spirit of Prop 63, which is why the co-author of that proposition, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, supports this initiative.

OPPOSING ARGUMENTS

If the state wants to fund new supportive housing, it shouldn’t come at the expense of basic mental health treatment. And while supportive housing may be a noble idea in theory, cities often drag their heels when it comes to approving new housing for the mentally ill, making it less likely that the money will be spent on its intended purpose.

PROP 3: ANOTHER WATER BOND

WHAT IT DOES

Give the state permission to borrow $8.9 billion to fund watershed protection, wastewater projects, groundwater management, as well as upgrades and repairs to traditional water infrastructure, like canals and dams.

HOW IT GOT ON THE BALLOT

No, this isn’t déjà vu. On June 5th, California voters passed a $4.1 billion bond to fund water infrastructure improvements, as well as new parks. That proposition was placed on the ballot by state lawmakers in part to discourage outside groups from asking voters for even more money in November. And yet here we are. Unlike the June proposition, this bond is much bigger and its funds will be entirely dedicated to water projects.

ESTIMATED COST

Approximately $435 million per year for 40 years.

SUPPORTING ARGUMENTS

From the Oroville Dam to groundwater depletion in the Central Valley to the Salton Sea, California faces no shortage of water woes. Yes, the state of California has borrowed big to fund water projects in the past. But bonds provide long-term, recession-proof, dedicated streams of cash, exactly what the state needs to upgrade and update its aging infrastructure.

OPPOSING ARGUMENTS

Not only have taxpayers foot the bill for big water bonds in the past, we did it again in early June! The state still hasn’t spent all of the money it borrowed in 2014 with Prop 1. There are additional concerns about how the money will be spent. Why should taxpayers statewide pay for regional projects, like canal and dam repairs, that are usually paid for by local water agencies?

PROP 4: CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL BOND

WHAT IT DOES

Give the state permission to borrow $1.5 billion to renovations, expansions, and upgrades at hospitals that treat children. Most of the funding is reserved for private non-profit hospitals and hospitals run through one of University of California campuses.

HOW IT GOT ON THE BALLOT

The California Children’s Hospital Association regularly turns to the taxpayer for help. In 2004, voters backed a $750-million bond to fund similar infrastructure investments. Four years later, they approved another $980-million in borrowing. This year’s proposal looks pretty similar—only bigger.

ESTIMATED COST

An extra $80 million annually for 35 years.

SUPPORTING ARGUMENTS

Kids deserve the best possible care. Medical technology is constantly changing, but because many of the hospitals are dependent on the low reimbursement rates from Medi-Cal, the state’s public insurance program for low-income residents, they often can’t afford to make these kinds of investments. These bond funds would allow the state’s health care providers to catch up.

OPPOSING ARGUMENTS

If the taxpayer is going to throw more money at hospitals, many of which are privately-owned and operated, why not use existing resources, rather than borrowing even more?

PROP 5: PORTABLE PROP 13

WHAT IT DOES

Allow older or disabled homeowners to take their lowered property tax base with them when they move.

HOW IT GOT ON THE BALLOT

Ever since voters passed Proposition 13 in 1978, property taxes have been calculated based on a home’s purchase price, rather than its current market value. That has kept property tax bills low for longtime homeowners despite skyrocketing real estate prices, but it also discourages people from moving, since selling one house and buying another often means getting stuck with a higher property tax bill. The California Association of Realtors, the folks in the business of selling homes, introduced this ballot measure last fall as a way to address the state’s housing crisis.

ESTIMATED COST

A loss of $2 billion annually in foregone tax revenue for local governments and school districts

SUPPORTING ARGUMENTS

Because homeowners are penalized for moving, many homeowners—particularly empty-nesters—are living in houses and large apartments that no longer meet their needs. There are plenty of first-time homebuyers and young families who would use all that extra space. Encouraging the first group to sell to the second is a win-win.

OPPOSING ARGUMENTS

Of all the ways to address the state’s housing crisis, this is one of the least direct. It doesn’t increase the housing supply. It doesn’t subsidize rents. It merely switches homes from one group to another. Meanwhile, it strips millions of dollars from our already cash-strapped school districts and local governments.

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PROP 6: GAS TAX REPEAL

WHAT IT DOES

Repeal a recent increase in the gas tax and other fuel and car fees and require voter approval for all related taxes in the future.

HOW IT GOT ON THE BALLOT

California roads are in rough shape, the product of years of deferred maintanance and recession-era budget cutting. Last year, lawmakers passed a bill to raise the state tax on gasoline for the first time in over two decades to fund repairs and maintanance, along with new transit projects and infrastructure upgrades. The bill also raised taxes on diesel and introduced a new car fee. In June, Republicans and anti-tax advocates successfully campaigned for the recall of Josh Newman, a vulnerable Democratic state senator for Orange County, ostensibly over his support of the transportation bill.

ESTIMATED COST

The loss of nearly $5 billion annually, which is the amount the transportation bill would have raised. There would also likely be longer term fiscal impacts, as state lawmakers would have much more difficult time raising revenue from gas and car-related sources in the future.

SUPPORTING ARGUMENTS

Californians already pay some of the highest taxes in the nation, including one of the highest state gas taxes. Lawmakers should be forced to trim spending and improve efficiency before asking drivers for more money.

OPPOSING ARGUMENTS

California hasn’t raised its gas tax in decades and the state’s transportation infrastructure is crumbling as a result. Conditions are unsafe for drivers and bad for business. Cities and counties are already using this money to improve our streets, highways, and transit system. Taking away the funding without a Plan B is irresponsible.

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PROP 7: DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME

WHAT IT DOES

Would repeal the measure Californians passed back in 1949 creating Daylight Saving Time. The Legislature would then be able to determine how the state sets its time—to eliminate moving clocks backward and forward every spring and fall.

HOW IT GOT ON THE BALLOT

Democratic Assemblywoman Kansen Chu of San Jose carried a bill the Legislature passed to place the measure on the ballot. Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing statement declared “Fiat Lux!”—the motto of his alma mater UC Berkeley. It’s Latin for “Let there be light.”

ESTIMATED COST

N/A

SUPPORTING ARGUMENTS

Studies indicate that clock-switching increases traffic accidents, heart attacks, workplace accidents and other hazards as people struggle to adapt to the disruption of their sleep schedules.

OPPOSING ARGUMENTS

This measure has a couple of caveats even if voters approve it. It will require a second bill in the Legislature, and Congress would have to approve the ultimate goal—year-round daylight savings time.

PROP 8: DIALYSIS CLINIC PROFIT PRUNING

WHAT IT DOES

Require companies that operate dialysis clinics to pay back insurers any profits over 15 percent of qualifying business costs.

HOW IT GOT ON THE BALLOT

The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers has had their sites trained on the California dialysis industry for years. They’ve sponsored legislation and floated ballot measures to mandate higher staffing ratios and regulate insurance payments. The majority of California Dialysis clinics, which serve patients suffering from kidney failure, are owned by two companies: DaVita Kidney Care and Fresenius Medical Care.

ESTIMATED COST

Not much. It would likely increase administrative costs in the near term and save spending on health benefits for retired public employees.

SUPPORTING ARGUMENTS

The two companies that operate most of California’s dialysis clinics are enormously profitable. In 2017, for example, DaVita netted $1 billion. And yet over the last five years, the California Department of Public Health has received 18 complaints a month about health and safety conditions at dialysis clinics each month.

OPPOSING ARGUMENTS

This just a pressure tactic from the unions who want to organize dialysis clinic workers. And it’s a poorly thought out initiative at that. In regulating profit, the measure doesn’t include basic administrative costs, like payroll management and legal expenses, as qualifying costs. This will harm the industry, and by extension, patients.

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PROP 9 WAS REMOVED FROM THE BALLOT. IT PROPOSED SPLITTING CALIFORNIA INTO 3 STATES.

PROP 10: ALLOWS EXPANDED RENT CONTROL

WHAT IT DOES

Allow cities to introduce new restrictions on market rents or expand existing rent control policies.

HOW IT GOT ON THE BALLOT

The California legislature passed the Costa-Hawkins Act in 1995, which placed a statewide moratorium on rent control laws. It also banned cities from applying existing rent regulation ordinances to new units. Now that the state is facing an affordable housing crisis, some housing advocates want to give cities a tool to put a legal lid on rents.

ESTIMATED COST

It depends. If cities across the state enact new rent control laws or expand old ones, that could result in reduced property values and less construction, resulting in lower tax revenue. It could also allow existing tenants who save on lower rent to spend more on consumer goods, resulting in higher sales tax. And then again, it’s possible that very few cities will respond with new laws at all, in which case the effect will be negligible.

SUPPORTING ARGUMENTS

The rent is too damn high! California renters are being priced out of the state’s big cities, driving them out into the suburbs, out of state, or onto the street. This is a crisis that needs an immediate solution, even as lawmakers work on a longer term fix.

OPPOSING ARGUMENTS

If rents are kept artificially low, it becomes less profitable to build new units or maintain and improve old ones. That’s counterproductive: a shortage of housing is how we got into this mess to begin with.

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PROP 11: PARAMEDIC BREAK TIME

WHAT IT DOES

Allow private ambulance services to require their emergency medical service employees to remain on call during meal and rest breaks. Also guarantees technicians additional training and some paid medical health services.

HOW IT GOT ON THE BALLOT

Two years ago, the state Supreme Court ruled that security guards cannot be required to keep their radios on and remain on call while enjoying their meal or break time. The EMT industry wants a specific exemption made for its workers. A number of private ambulance firms are facing class action lawsuits in California courts over break time violations, including American Medical Response, the Colorado-based company backing the initiative.

ESTIMATED COST

Not much. Slightly lower EMT contract costs for local governments.

SUPPORTING ARGUMENTS

Just like police and firefighters, emergency medical response technicians need to be on-call when the worst happens. This proposition would ensure that workers are compensated for missed or interupted breaks.

OPPOSING ARGUMENTS

This initiative is being pushed by an industry looking for a special carve-out from state labor law. They should just follow the rules.

PROP 12: BIGGER CAGES FOR FARM ANIMALS

WHAT IT DOES

Place new size requirements on the coops and cages used to contain breeding pigs, veal calfs, and egg-laying hens. It would also require all egg-laying hens be raised in specified “cage-free” conditions. These requirements would apply to anyone selling related food products in California, even if the farms are out of state.

HOW IT GOT ON THE BALLOT

In 2008, voters passed Proposition 2, an initiative sponsored by the Humane Society, which required that farm animals be allowed to stand up and turn around in their cages. This measure, also backed by the Humane Society, would put some specific numbers to the requirement and go a few steps further.

ESTIMATED COST

Not much. It might increase enforcement costs and decrease tax revenue from farms.

SUPPORTING ARGUMENTS

Proposition 2 showed that we can improve the welfare of animals on farms without jeopardizing our food supply. California is such a large state, when we act to make our food system a little less cruel, the national food industry is forced to follow.

OPPOSING ARGUMENTS

This will require many farmers to completely overhaul the way they do business, potentially driving some out of business and leading to higher food prices. These new rules also overlook the fact that animals are often kept in cages to reduce aggression and protect them from themselves.

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