Wednesday, October 27, 2010

bike destination: ballot box (the state propositions)

It's getting time again for me to ride my bicycle to the ballot box. As usual, California voters, especially those in San Francisco, are confronted with a broad menu of propositions. Often these propositions present challenging choices. Not this time, however. Virtually all of the measures are, to me, fairly clear-cut.

First the state measures.

  • Proposition 19 (legalize marijuana): This is a tricky matter, since it is a violation of federal law to possess this stuff. But I'm a firm believer in the autonomy of the states, and in this instance, we flush a tragic amount of resources down the judicial toilet incarcerating poor slobs for this weed. I'm against marijuana use, but then I'm against alcohol and tobacco use as well, as we don't toss away the key for people caught with these other substances. So until we develop more creative, less expensive, more effective means to deal with marijuana abuse, the good old free market solution of taxation works fine by me.
    switch: I changed my mind on this one. Some of the details, like restrictions against testing, go a bit too far. See for example 11304(c). I defer to Feinstein's arguments against, and vote no.
    Lance discussing redistricting with Floyd
  • Proposition 20 (redistricting commission): the abuse by the legislature of congressional districting has been a clear travesty of the democratic principles on which the nation is based. Using the natural selection principle of "if it's broke, replace it", I'm for this one.
  • Proposition 21 (vehicle license surcharge): This is a surcharge on the license fee for private vehicles, undoing the repeal of a similar charge by the Governator soon after he took office. Anything which makes driving a car more expensive I support, period. Free market principles work, and if we want folks to drive less, by far the most effective way to do so is to make it more expensive to drive. Now a license fee doesn't directly make it more expensive to drive (you have to consider the marginal impact of driving on capital investment to unravel it): a gas tax is much more effective at that. But it does help. So I'm for this one. Oh, yeah: the money goes to wildlife or some such thing. I don't care wwhere the money goes, really. The main thing is the impact on car ownership and reliance on cars as primary transportation.
  • Proposition 22 (prohibits state from "borrowing" local transportation funds): The state has abused its power by borrowing from cities to balance its budget. Neverthreless, there's already checks in place to prevent this sort of abuse: the ballot box, for example. The state treasurer is outta here, as far as I'm concerned. This also prohibits the state from using fuel taxes targeted for transportation from paying for transportation bonds. If the voters hadn't passed every freakin' transportation bond in sight this wouldn't be an issue now. I vote no.
  • Proposition 23 (suspends implementation of air pollution control law): Great, so it's okay to destroy the Earth if someone calculates unemployment is more than a few percent, which could, by the way, be an essentially permanent condition given the way things have been going. No, no, no. Can I state this strongly enough? No.
    Lance discussing Prop 24 with Alberto
  • Proposition 24 (repeals recent legislation which allows businesses to lower tax liability): Farms have traditionally been allowed to average income over multiple seasons to avoid paying higher taxes than a business with a revenue stream less enslaved to weather fluctuations. But there's plenty of businesses whose income is subject to year-to-year variation. For example, if I have an umbrella store... Okay, this is a silly example, but the point is it makes sense for businesses to be able to average income over multiple years. This would repeal a law going into effect in 2011 which would liberalize how a company could distribute losses among profitable years and how it could allocate income between multiple states in which it operates. There's serious problems in how businesses are taxed. For example, if a company takes money as income, it's fairly easy for it to shelter that and not pay tax. On the other hand, if it hires someone it pays a substantial amount of tax (social security + income tax: both are charged on the transaction whether or not it's technically paid by one or the other). So the incentive is to maximize profits, not hire people. Surprise, surprise, the nation has a jobs crisis. But this proposition doesn't solve that core issue.
  • Sports Illustrated
    Lance discussing legislative super-majority with Tyler
  • Proposition 25 (changes vote on budget from 2/3 to 1/2): Nothing other than constitutional ammendments should require a 2/3 vote. Opponents can only argue it won't make a difference. The reality is the opponents love 2/3 requirements because they mean you need to bribe only 1/3, rather than 1/2, of legislatures to grid-lock a budget and hold out for give-aways. I'm strongly for proposition 25
  • Proposition 26 (certain state and local fees require 2/3 vote): No. See Proposition 25. I don't care about further details.
  • Proposition 27 (eliminates state commission on redistricting): Well, obviously since I'm for 20 I'm against this one. Elected officials have a core conflict of interest in redistricting. The CA League of Women Voters is strongly against this.

I picked the easy set first. Next time (gulp) I tackle the San Francisco propositions.

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