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Fall Election, 2010

Richard Walker, the Vice Chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association, on the ballot propositions:

Here is my take on the ballot propositions coming up. First, for a table with basic information on each proposition, clear here: Ballotpedia

Proposition 19: Legalize Marijuana. Yes. Why not? Prohibition of alcohol did not work and prohibition of weed has not worked, either. Thousands of prisoners have been jailed for possession of or dealing pot. No strong medical evidence of harm (less by far than alcohol, probably less than caffeine). The tax revenues would be a big boost to the state’s finances and it should help get the mafias from growing pot on public lands. Some rural areas are concerned that agribusiness might take over their business, but that is a secondary concern, in my book.

Proposition 21: Vehicle Fees for State Parks. YES.
State parks have been starved for years, especially by Schwarzenegger. California has the largest and best state park system in the country, built up during the postwar years when we had revenues and an expanding public sector. Furthermore, breaking the lock-up on increased fees is a good thing in the present anti-tax environment (recall that Schwarzie turned back the fees passed by the legislature in 2004 and cost the state about $5 billion in lost revenues). Yes, targeted tax revenues by proposition is a dumb way to fund the state, but not as dumb as no taxes and no revenues. Furthermore, vehicle license (registration) fees are progressive.

Proposition 22: No State Raiding of Local Government Funds No. It is true that the State keeps taking back local funds during fiscal crises to help close the budget deficit, and local governments are just as strapped as the state. However, the main raid last year was on Redevelopment Agency funds, which are not used for General Fund spending but on capital projects, and usually for commercial projects, not social welfare. This proposition would further limit the legislature’s ability to pass a budget and protect social spending. Of course, what we really need is higher & better taxes, but that’s not on the program…

Proposition 23: Suspend AB 32 NO. AB32 is the energy conservation act passed in 2006, the most far-sighted climate change legislation in this oil-besotted country. Prop. 23 is a crude (!) power grab, funded by oil companies and promoted under the guise of saving jobs. Rubbish!

Proposition 24: Revoke Tax Breaks from Last Year’s Budget Compromise YES. The price for finally settling the budget last year, when Abel Maldonado agreed to vote with the Democrats, was a set of “reforms” pushed by Maldonado and his Republican pals. One was the horrid “Open Primaries” proposition that just passed in June. Less well known are three big tax breaks for corporations that will cost the state another couple billion in the midst of mind-numbing budget deficit. Nothing speaks more eloquently of the Republican anti-tax agenda: tax breaks for the rich and the capitalists.

Proposition 25: Majority Vote in Legislature on State Budget. YES YES YES. We all know that the 2/3ds rule now in force is a disaster. It has hamstrung the legislature for years (it goes back to 1934, but only became a farce in the last 20 years as Republicans moved to the Right). All 2/3ds voting rules violate the basic principle of majority democracy, and this one is making a laughing-stock of the legislature and the state. Alas, it does not repeal the 2/3ds rule on taxes from Proposition 13, but it’s a good first step toward restoring sanity in state government. (there are some provisions about punishing the legislature if it fails to pass the budget on time, but these will be of little importance once a majority vote is reestablished).

Proposition 26: 2/3ds Vote on All State & Local Fees. NO NO NO. This is a horrible extension of Proposition 13 that would extend the 2/3ds rule to all state AND local fees, and demand popular votes on many of them. It’s a real government stopper, right out of the Grover Norquiest reactionary playbook. Be very scared about this one!

Proposition 20: Congressional Redistricting. Yes. Follows on a previous proposition that took legislative redistricting out of the hands of the legislature and gave it to a commission. The composition of the commission, under the previous reform, is ridiculously ungainly, but the basic idea is sound. On the other hand, it is not a panacea for legislative deadlock, as some people think, and it reduces the power of the parties, which is not necessarily a good thing.
Proposition 27: Return Redistricting to the Legislature. No. I believe this is an attempt by the Democrats to regain control of redistricting. I don’t think this is what they should be spending their time and money on…

Richard A. Walker
Professor of Geography
Co-director, Global Metropolitan Studies
Chair, California Studies Center
505 McCone Hall, #4740
University of California
Berkeley 94720-4740

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