California is a War Zone

LA WATCHLDOG - California is not considered to be a battleground state because the polls indicate that President Obama is going to trounce Mitt Romney.  And in the other statewide race, debate wary 79 year old Diane Feinstein is a heavy favorite to win reelection against unknown Elizabeth Emken.

But the advertising industry does not have to worry.  There are eleven (11) statewide ballot measures, including several hot button issues that will result in massive, well financed campaigns which will bombard us with advertisements, 24/7, from the beginning of October through Election Day on Tuesday, November 6.

We can get a better understanding of the eleven statewide ballot measures by assigning them to one of three categories: economic (3), political (4), and social issues (4).

There are four social issue ballot measures.  

Proposition 34 would repeal the Death Penalty while Proposition 36 would revise the current Three Strikes law so that a life sentence would be imposed only when the new felony conviction is serious or violent.  

Proposition 35 increases the criminal penalties for Human Trafficking, while Proposition 37 requires mandatory labeling for Genetically Engineered Foods.

There are four political ballot measures.

Proposition 31 would require the State to establish a Two Year Budget Cycle and would prohibit the Legislature from creating expenditures of more than $25 million unless offsetting revenues and spending cuts are identified.  

Proposition 33 would allow Auto Insurance companies to set prices based in part on a driver’s history of insurance coverage, while Proposition 40, which concerns Senate Redistricting, is essentially a dead duck as its sponsors have wisely bailed.  

Proposition 32, otherwise known as Stop Special Interest Money or Paycheck Protection, is the most controversial ballot measure since the politically powerful, campaign funding unions that represent municipal and state employees would be prohibited from using payroll deducted funds for political purposes unless agreed to in writing every year.

There are three economic ballot measures.

Proposition 30 is the poison pill laden proposal by Governor Brown and the California Teachers Association designed to raise $6 to $7 billion a year by increasing the sales tax by a 0.25% (¼ of 1%) for four years and to increase the marginal income tax rate to 12.3% for the next seven years.

Proposition 38 is another overly complicated measure sponsored by Pasadena resident Molly Munger that is designed to fund Education and Early Childhood Programs by raising $10 to $11 billion a year through significant across the board increases in the income tax rates for the next twelve years.  

And lastly, Proposition 39 is designed to raise $1 billion by requiring multistate businesses to calculate their California income tax liability based on their percentage of sales in California.  

At the same time, there are ballot measures that are conspicuously absent.

The $11 billion Water Bond measure was moved to the November 2014 ballot by the Legislature because Governor Brown correctly believed that this pork laden deal would interfere with his pet measure, Proposition 30.

But the most striking absence is that there is no ballot measure for Pension Reform, despite the fact that the Republicans in Sacramento endorsed Governor Brown’s Twelve Point Pension Reform Plan word for word.  But this is a testament to the power of the union leadership and their lobbyists who patrol the halls of the State Capitol.  

As for the economic issues, voters will need to consider not only these ballot measures, but all of the other increases in fees and taxes that are going to impact their wallets.

In Los Angeles County, we will more than likely have the opportunity to vote on the 30 year extension of Measure R, the 0.50% (½ of 1%) increase in our sales tax to fund large transit related projects.  Of course, Mayor Villaraigosa has proposed to divert some of this money to pave our streets, ordinarily an obligation of the City’s General Fund.

And in March, County property owners will more than likely vote by mail on a $300 million parcel tax to fund the County’s yet to be defined Stormwater program.

But these measures to increase our income, sales, and real estate taxes are just the beginning as the impact of AB 32 (California Global Solutions Warming Act of 2006) will start to kick in over the next few years, leaving hard working Angelenos with significantly less disposable income.

For example, there is the strong possibility that the cost of gasoline will increase by $1.00 a gallon, costing Californians about $15 to $20 billion a year.

While the ballot measures for tax increases and the elimination of the death penalty will generate plenty of noise, the dominant issue will be the absolute war over Stop Special Interest Money / Paycheck Protection.  

In 2005, a similar measure was rejected by 53.5% of the voters, but only after opponents financed by governmental unions spent over $54 million to defeat the measure.  Proponents, on the other hand, spent less than $6 million.

But times have changed.

As the economy tanked, Angelenos have come to the realization that the substantial increases in salaries and benefits that the campaign funding union leadership have extracted from their cronies that occupy City Hall have forced our City to the brink of insolvency.

And then there are the actual bankruptcies of Vallejo, Stockton, and San Bernardino, with many more anticipated in the near future.   

Over the next four years, the City of Los Angeles is projecting a cumulative budget deficit of over $1.1 billion, an average of $275 million a year.  This Structural Deficit is caused by an increase of almost $800 million in personnel expense (salaries, benefits, and pensions) compared to an overly optimistic $500 million rise in General Fund revenues.

At the same time, the Executive Employee Relations Committee (Villaraigosa, Wesson, Reyes, Krekorian, and Koretz) has been unable to make any progress on the Mayor’s Civilian Pension Reform Plan, a proposal that does little to address the ever increasing pension contributions, again a testament to the power of the union leadership.  

And how can Angelenos forget the $250 million IBEW Labor Premium that Union Bo$$ Brian d’Arcy has extracted from our Department of Water and Power, courtesy of Mayor Villaraigosa and Eric Garcetti.  

And these are the same municipal unions who are adamantly opposed any ballot measure that requires the City of Los Angeles to “Live Within Its Means.”

Over the next 109 days, the voters of Los Angeles and California will be bombarded by TV, radio, and internet advertisements.  But in deciding how we vote, Angelenos need to take into consideration whether the occupants of City Hall and the State Capitol are worthy stewards of our hard earned money or whether they have sold us out to the self serving union leadership that have caused our City and State to be on the brink of insolvency.

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and the Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: lajack@gmail.com) –cw




CityWatch
Vol 10 Issue 58
Pub: July 20, 2012