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BAFFLED BY BALLOT INITIATIVES? MAY 19 MEASURES PROVE STUDY IN CONFUSION




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By Miriam Raftery

 

May 6, 2009 (San Diego’s East County)—The May 19 election includes six statewide ballot initiatives (1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, and 1F) that are among the most confusing in recent memory. The stakes are high: stability of California’s budget process and the ability to fund vital services such as education, healthcare and public safety for the future.

 

But an array of conflicting arguments has left even customary allies on opposite sides of the fence on many of the initiatives. We’ve provided the most comprehensive guide yet to help you sort through the strongest arguments on all sides and understand these measures—so you can make an informed choice. Also remember, the last day to request an absentee ballot for the May 17 election is May 12.

 

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger warns of dire consequences if measures fail, yet the California Republican Party opposes all six initiatves—while the Califiornia Democratic Party favors 1B, 1C and 1F but has a neutral stance on the others. The League of Women Voters, meanwhile, recommends a “No” vote on four propositions (1A, 1C, 1D, and 1E), remaining neutral on two. The progressive Courage Campaign urges a “No” vote on all six initiatives, as does the California Nurses Association. But the League of Conservation Voters wants the opposite-- a “Yes” on all six. Educator groups are divided, too: California Teachers Association urges a “Yes” on all six measures, but the California Federation of Teachers urges a “No” on five of the measures, supporting only 1B. Service Employees International (SEIU), a labor group, has a mixed recommendation favoring 1B and 1C, opposing 1A, 1D and 1E, with no position on 1F, while the California Chamber of Commerce supports all six measures. California Taxpayers Association, a conservative group, supports four of the measures (,1A, 1D, 1E and 1F) but is neutral on the rest, while the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association opposes 1A.

 

Here is our rundown on what the measures would actually do, and why various interest groups have taken stances for or against the initiatives. At the bottom of this story, we’ve also included links to the major interest group sites, where you can read more detailed arguments on both sides.

 

PROPOSITON 1A: SPENDING CAP

 

This measure limits the amount of money the state government can spend each year. Those in favor say it would bring stability to the state budget process and reduce spending. Opponents say it would likely cause big budget deficits, forcing deep budget cuts to schools, healthcare and other public services further in the future. But the League of Women Voters (LWV) and California Nurses Association, which both oppose the measure, conclude that it would make it more difficult for future governors and legislatures to enact budgets that address the state’s priorities and that it would lock in a reduced level of public services, as well as giving future governors new power to make budget cuts without legislative oversight. The measure would also extend increase in sales, car and income tax for one to two years and reduce the tax credit for dependents. It is supported by California Taxpayers Association and California Chamber of Commerce, but Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which calls the measure a “major tax hiding behind a phony spending cap.”

 

Support: California Taxpayers Association, California League of Conservation Voters, California Teachers Association, California Chamber of Commerce

 

Oppose: League of Women Voters, California Republican Party, California Federation of Teachers, California Nurses Association, Calitics, Courage Campaign, SEIU CA, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

 

PROP 1B: EDUCATION FUNDING

 

This measure would provide a one-time payment of $9.3 billion to schools for K-12 education and community colleges for several years, starting in 2011, to address Prop 98 funding uncertainties. It requires passage of Prop 1A to be funded. The Chamber of Commerce says that 1B “starts the process of repaying schools and community colleges as economic conditions improve. The future depends on investing in educating our children.” California Teachers Association, also supports the measure. CTA observes that “California public schools and community colleges have lost more than $11 billion in state funding over the past two years due to the budget crisis. Our schools are currently ranked 47th in per-pupil spending.” Class sizes are among the largest in the nation and more than 27,000 teachers and education support professionals got lay-off notices in March. “Art, music, PE and career technical education programs are being eliminated all over the state. We can’t let things get worse,” CTA argues.

 

But the Califiornia Federation of Teachers opposes this measure and others, arguing that ““Propositions 1A, 1C, 1D and 1E propose a variety of schemes that will hurt children, burden the state with debt, and force cuts in 4-year colleges and universities, health care, and other social programs, while permanently underfunding public education.” California Nurses Association, which also opposes the measure, argues that “The legislature has the power to make education funding a priority and not tie funding to a spending cap as proposed with Prop 1A.”

 

Support: California Democratic Party, California Chamber of Commerce, SEIU-CA, California Federation of Teachers, California Teachers Association, California League of Conservation Voters

 

Oppose: California Republican Party, California Nurses Association, Calitecs

 

PROP 1C: LOTTERY BORROWING

 

This initiative allows the state to issue $5 miliion in bonds “securitized” by future lottery profits, effectively borrowing against future lottery revenues. Lottery revenues would no longer be a source of funds for education and the loss of education funds would be required to be made up out of the state’s General Fund, according to the LWV. “In light of California’s poor credit rating and the state of the economy, these bonds may have to be sold at interest rates very unfavorable to the state, if indeed they can be sold at all,” the LWV cautions. Moreover, the Legislative Analyst’s Office says that long term, lottery profits probably won’t cover Prop 1C requirements for funding education.

 

Support: California Teachers Association, California Democratic Party, California League of Conservation Voters, SEIU CA

 

Oppose: California Federation of Teachers, League of Women Votesr, California Republican Party, Courage Campaign, Calitecs, California Nurses Association

 

Prop 1D: Children’s Services Funding

 

Proponents argue that the measure will provide $600 million to protect children’s services in tough economic times. Opponents say the proposition would redirect tobacco tax funds set aside for “First 5” early childhood programs for healthcare and education into the state’s general fund. California Nursing Association warns that “Prop 1D raids these funds in the short term in order to pay for some services, while taking funding away from other services. This measure is shortsighted and harmful for our children.”

 

Support: California Democratic Party, California League of Conservation Voters, California Teachers Association, California Chamber of Commerce

 

Oppose: California Republican Party, Courage Campaign, Calitecs, California Federation of Teachers, League of Women Voters, SEIU-CA, California Taxpayers Association

 

 Prop 1E: Mental Health Services Funding