This time, the election is all about money (refrain from your cynical thoughts). Even non-state budget-related items on the ballot are there to consolidate elections and save money.
Here are the basics. California is a budgetary mess. Years of ill-considered (from a budgetary perspective) ballot measures have severely constrained the legislature’s ability to work out a solution. Couple that with the intransigence of the “no taxes” extremist Republicans and the leverage they have because of the two-thirds majority requirement (also enacted by ballot measure) to pass a state budget or raise taxes. Mind you, the context of all this is that it only takes a simple majority to pass these measures, including those that amend the California constitution. So something as transient as a one-year budget is deemed more important than the state’s founding document, go figure.
The final piece of idiocy is that about a dozen years ago, when the state was flush with money, the highest tax bracket (then 11 percent, as I recall) was eliminated. Whoopee! Good news for the rich, and, arguably reasonable. But when things changed, the obstructionists mentioned above would not give back. So the state ended up $15 billion short, resulting, at least in part, in the recall of the sitting governor. He was replaced by a loudmouth who thought he could do things “differently.” I suppose that makes sense if differently means “not paying for the stuff everybody wants.” But since this is planet Earth and things don’t work that way, a few years after that previous budget mess was “solved” through various mechanisms, the problem reared its head again. This time, the loudmouth was chastised and was willing to work with the opposition. Unfortunately, his co-partisans are still high on Grover Norquist’s anti-tax bromides.
The result is the set of propositions, 1a-1f, that propose to solve the problem. Unfortunately, they take money from those who most need it—children, the handicapped, those with the lowest income—to spare the rich the higher tax rate that would have solved all these problems had it been re-implemented in a timely fashion. Some of these measures contain rational items—a rainy day fund, an annual spending cap, modernizing the lottery to increase revenues from it, and the restoration of funds to schools that have been taken away in recent years. There’s even a measure that denies elected officials pay increases in deficit years.
But I’ll be voting against all of these, because the underlying premise—temporary fixes to longer term problems—will just put the state deeper in the hole. Raising the sales tax and vehicle fees has the worst possible effect (Prop 1a). It takes money from those who most need it and would spend it (helping the economy). Even the proposed increase by .25 percent of all the state income tax brackets is not the right way to go.
Now couple this with the reality that corporate taxes have declined precipitously in the last half century. People are sick of paying taxes, it is said. That’s because the well healed are not paying their fair share anymore. When they did was when people and the economy did best (not just the latter), from World War II to the 1970’s.
I hope all these measures go down in flames. Vote against them.
On the almost-countywide (LA) level, there are two races for seats on the LA Community College Board—vote for Angela Reddock and Nancy Pearlman. Then there’s Hilda Solis’ vacated 32nd Congressional district seat (she’s now secretary of labor). That one has lots of people running; my pick—Judy Chu.
And there are the two City of Los Angeles races, for city attorney and Council District 5. In the latter, vote for Paul Koretz. I know the guy, and he brings the best set of skills to the job. In the city attorney’s race, neither of them inspires me. I recommend flipping a coin while holding your nose and acting accordingly. I suppose it could be argued that Carmen Trutanich has more unpalatable associations than Jack Weiss, but it’s not an easy choice.
As always, be sure to vote. Else, you’re letting others decide your fate. And, from an Armenian perspective, the more members from our community vote, the more engaged we are and the more credible our voices become when it comes to our issues.