From gas tax to rent con­trol, The Tri­bune’s rec­om­men­da­tions in 11 statewide races

The Tribune (SLO) (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY THE TRI­BUNE ED­I­TO­RIAL BOARD

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 year­round 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.

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, un­der­equipped 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 one­time 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 one­time 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.

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 DTS 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 out- side. 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:

They can’t ap­ply to sin­gle-fam­ily homes

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

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 com­muni-

VOT­ERS WILL MAKE DECISIONS ON PROPO­SI­TIONS THAT IN­CLUDE BIL­LIONS OF DOL­LARS IN BOND MEA­SURES FOR AF­FORD­ABLE HOUS­ING, WA­TER PROJECTS AND CHIL­DREN’S HOS­PI­TALS.

ties 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: NOEgg-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, preg- nant 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 cage­free eggs at the su­per­mar­ket or, even bet­ter, buy fresh eggs at lo­cal farmers mar­kets. And how about just say­ing no to veal?

DAVID MIDDLECAMP dmid­dle­camp@thetri­bune­news.com

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.

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