California June 5th Propositions–My 2 Cents worth

     On June 5th, California voters will decide the fate of 2 ballot initiatives, Proposition 28 regarding our legislature’s term limits, and Proposition 29 which will raise the taxes on tobacco products and supposedly Cancer research will recieve the proceeds from these taxes.  At first blush, you may be inclined to say you are for term limits and that we need more cancer research and people who want to smoke should pay higher taxes.  These are logical positions to take but do the two Propositions actually accomplish your Common Sense positions?

Proposition 28:  Term Limit Change:  Vote No

     In 1990 California put in place one of the most restrictive term limit laws in the nation.  Basically the law provides that:

  • State Assembly: Limited to 3, 2-year terms.
  • State Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Controller, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Board of Equalization members, and State Senators:  Limited to 2, 4-year terms.
  • For all offices, the office holder cannot seek the election for the same office for the rest of their lives.  An assemblyman could run for the Senate however and be subject to the Senate limits, etc.
  • State Legislators could only be a part of Social Security and not be a part of the California PERS retirement system.
  • Placed spending limits on Assemblymen and Senators for expenditures on staff salaries and operating expenses.

Today’s Proposition 28 modifies the term limits from both the Assembly and the Senate as follows:

  • State Assembly:  Allows an office holder to stay in office for 6, 2-year terms for a total of 12 years.
  • State Senate:  Allows an office holder to stay in office for 3, 4-year terms for a total of 12 years.
  • Other State Elected Offices:  Not addressed in this proposition.

What is the bottom Line?  Well, the original term limit ban under Prop 140 did not protect California from electing, and re-electing morons who have bankrupted this state.  The term limits for the Assembly and the Senate in Prop 140 are as good as it gets so far,  The only thing Prop 28 does is allows the Assembly and Senate office holders to run for one more term before they are “termed out”.  But, why give them one more chance to stay in office? 

Sooner or later we just may luck out and actually vote someone in who wants to actually save California and stop the insane spending and tax policies adopted in the last several administrations. 

     Some argue and say this proposition actually reduced the total time in office from 14 years to 12.  That assumes that a member of the Assembly or Senate after they serve 3 and two terms respectively would run for election in the other house.  This is a rarity and not worth keeping any of these clowns in office one more day!  Besides, one of the biggest backers of this proposition is the Teacher’s and other public sector unions.  Do you think they have your best interest at heart?

Proposition 29:  Cigarette Tax/Cancer Research:  Vote No

     No one with a half a brain thinks that smoking is good for you.  Also, there is a truism that says that if you want to decrease the use or consumption of something you tax it.  Finally we all know that if you create a bureaucracy to spend targeted tax money, most of the money does not reach those it was intended for.  Proposition 29 has all of these elements wrapped into one initiative. 

  • Tax Increase on Cigarettes:  Increase the current $0.87/pack to $1.87/Pack–Increase of $1.00/Pack or 2.2 times the current tax.
  • Requires that the State set up another fund, Remember the Social Security Trust Fund or the Schools Lottery Windfall?
  • Creates nine-member committee charged with administering the fund.  Another Governor Appointed Committee that he can use to pay back his contributors and friends.
  • But, where do the funds go?
    • Approximately $75 million annually would maintain existing tobacco tax revenue streams.  This makes up for loss in revenue by other tobacco tax funds when the price increase drives DOWN the tax revenues. 
    • 60% would to go research of cancer and tobacco-related disease.  The panel would hand out grants to organizations they think will use the money wisely.  Think Solyndra! 
    • 15% would go to facilities and capital equipment for research “for the purposes of grants and loans to provide facilities”.  Same as last point!
    • 20% would go to tobacco prevention and cessation to the state’s existing tobacco control program.  So, they think they are going to increase revenue with this program that is intended to decrease smoking?  Only a Bureaucrat could come up with these ideas.
    •  3% would go to tobacco law enforcement “to support law enforcement efforts to reduce cigarette smuggling, tobacco tax evasion, and counterfeit tobacco products, to reduce illegal sales of tobacco products to minors, and to enforce legal settlement provisions and conduct law enforcement training and technical assistance activities for tobacco related statues”. 
    • Last but not least, no more than 2% would go to administration, including the collection, auditing, and distribution of revenue.  This could be equal to $16,000,000 annually!  Why don’t they just donate this to the Cancer Society and drop this administration nonsense?  This amounts to about $1,500,000 per committee member.  They have to hire staff to write the checks of course, and some for auditing.  They are saying some costs will be incurred in the collection of these taxes?  Really, the taxes are to be collected by the State Board of Equalization.  All this bunch has to do is call and say, “Send us our Money”!

     While I would like everyone to stop smoking and cancer research to be increased, this Proposition will probably do neither.  New York as proven that raising taxes on cigarettes to this level will increase the size of the black market for cigarettes and also the projected revenue will be much less due to people quitting and people buying on the black market.

     My biggest fear is that if this fund runs short of money Brown will try to offset the difference from the “general funds”, or if Governor Brown runs shorter of money in the “general fund”  than his current $35,000,000,000 (billion) dollar deficit, he will dip into these funds like a can of snuff.  You think Big Jerry will let a little thing like a law stand in his way.  He will just have the 9 member panel say it is OK for him to grab some cash…

Enough already…

PS:  Gov. Jerry Brown abruptly booted a doctor from a state advisory panel after she appeared in industry-funded television ads slamming a proposed tobacco tax to fund cancer research.  So much for Freedom of Speech…

RD Pierini

Hat Tips:

SF Gate: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/05/14/MNFE1OF14L.DTL

Orange County Register: http://www.ocregister.com/opinion/terms-351396-years-prop.html

California Board of Equalization: http://www.boe.ca.gov/sptaxprog/spcigarette_tobacco.htm

Ballotpedia:  http://www.ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/California_Term_Limits,_Proposition_140_(1990)

SF Examiner:  http://www.sfexaminer.com/opinion/editorials/2012/05/proposition-29-cigarette-tax-curbs-habit-aids-research

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