October 28, 2016
My Perspective on the Ballot Measures…This is How I’m voting.
By Mario A. Guerra
My Op Ed piece published by The Downey Patriot is here.
Many of you have asked me how I’m voting on certain propositions and The Patriot asked me to share my thoughts. There is a lot of information to digest but I strongly encourage everyone to at least read the analysis pages of the huge voter information guide sent out by our state. It gives you a recap of who is behind each proposition, their arguments for and rebuttals against. It’s interesting (for a political junkie maybe) to see what the arguments are that some want us to believe. And yes, it can be hard to get to the truth at times.
But we know that TV ads can be misleading, so please do your own research. This is just too important and we will be paying for our actions (literally and figuratively) in this election for many years to come. Besides the Presidential and Senate races we have 1,000 other elections in California. It is important for me to reflect what my basic values, principals and beliefs are before I vote.
My core beliefs are: I consider myself a moderate. I am for local control and less government. I believe the more money we give the government and politicians the more they will spend. I am for fewer taxes and consider myself to be fiscally responsible. I believe government needs to provide a safety net for those who cannot take care of themselves. I think the most important responsibility of government is to protect our citizens. I believe teachers can have a tremendous impact on our youth and education should always be a top priority. I believe schools should be palaces of learning and safety. I believe in incentives versus punishment. I want our government to stay out of our bedrooms, churches and bank accounts. I want everyone to pay their fair share of taxes but do not want anyone singled out or discriminated against. I believe our government needs to have fiscal constraints. I expect accountability, transparency and promises made by our elected officials to be kept. I expect a fair playing field and opportunities for everyone and the ability to be rewarded for hard work and extra effort.
My general consensus is to think twice about increasing taxes. Knowing a little more than some about government, I do know that the more money we give elected officials to spend the more they will spend. I ask myself: do we need additional taxes added to our property tax bills or increases in sales taxes like Measure M does in LA County? Is this something we must have or is it wishful thinking? (Want versus Need).
Are we being misled by some commercials? For example, Measure M says we will have our traffic signals synchronized to speed up traffic. By 2057? It is ironic that this was the same tactic used for Measure R just a few years ago and Measure M just basically extends this sales tax indefinitely. Indefinitely is a long time !
A simple way to see who is behind a certain proposition on TV and where the money is coming from is to pause your TV at the end of a commercial and see who have given large contributions. It doesn’t mean it’s bad, just good information to know.
I encourage everyone to look at their homeowners’ tax bill to see how many things we are paying for based on decisions of the past 10-20 years. There have certainly been several measures passed that were worth the expense, but there are definitely others that we regret. So starting with that premise, this is how I am going to vote on most of the propositions:
Measure M – NO…New sales tax in Los Angeles County.
It pushes improvements on the I-5, I-605 and 710 freeways back 40 years. The $121 BILLION dollar tax increase doubles the current transportation sales tax (Measure R) the voters passed in 2008 and has NO expiration date. It’s been called a “blank check” for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority with no accountability. Our local cities have strongly opposed this measure and so do I. From Downey’s standpoint, they have stopped the construction of the 5 freeway extension in Downey which just means more traffic for us for the next 20 years.
Proposition 51 – NO
School Bonds. Funding for K-12 School and Community College Facilities – Jerry Brown is the most prominent opponent of this measure because he believes it will hurt the school districts that need the help the most. He calls the measure a “blunderbuss effort”.
Proposition 52 – YES
State Fees on Hospitals. Federal Medi-Cal Matching Funds. – This is an extension of something that seems to be working.
Proposition 53 – YES
Revenue Bonds. Statewide Voter Approval (Voter approval on revenue bonds over $2 Billion)…Again, don’t be misled. The commercials you see on TV are not factual and very misleading. Voter approval from this measure does NOT impact emergency situations and school bonds which are paid back from future tax receipts and general bonds. This refers only to revenue bonds, which are paid back from future user fees from those who use the specific project. The two and most likely projects that would ever come before the voters are funding for the high speed train and water tunnels proposed by Governor Brown. I think in cases where someone wants to finance a very large state project, voter approval is a pretty good idea. They should make the case to us voters on things over $ 2 BILLION dollars.
Proposition 54 – YES
Legislature Transparency Act – Starts the process of transparency. Great proposition that helps us know exactly what is being voted on 72 hours before our legislators vote. It also allows us to see all public hearings online.
Proposition 55 – NO
Tax Extension of Temporary Tax passed in 2012 – We need to keep our word, a temporary tax should be temporary. This is an extension of Prop 30 that we passed in 2012. A promise should be kept. Even Governor Brown who pushed for Prop 30 back then is silent on this one because he personally made that commitment to the California voters. It passed back then because the State was in a financial crisis. Today we are doing better financially as a state and we need to keep the integrity of what we voters authorized.
Proposition 56 – NO
Cigarette Tax – It is a regressive tax that disproportionally impacts lower income Californians. . Very little of the new tax will be used for actual smoking abatement programs.
Proposition 57 – NO
Criminal Sentences…Allows early release of prisoners for certain non-violent crimes. As usual, the devil is in the details. What constitutes a non-violent felony is left to the parole board to decide. There is a reason every major law enforcement organization in the state is opposing this measure and we should too. We cannot afford more prisoners on our streets without reforms.
Proposition 58 – NO
English Language Education, Put on the ballot by the Legislature…Repeals 1998 voter-approved law to promote English language education in our schools.
Proposition 59 – NO
California Overturn of Citizens United Act Advisory Question…It is silly for us to be voting on something that means absolutely nothing, does nothing and cannot change a thing. This is basically a publically funded opinion poll to see whether we want to pursue overturning a Supreme Court decision. We cannot allow legislators to abuse the power of Propositions to gauge what to do next. It is expensive and sets a bad precedence.
Proposition 60 – NO
Adult Films. Condoms…This is opposed by both State parties (Democrats and Republicans). Some opponents argue that it allows residents to sue anyone with a financial interest in the production of an adult film. Los Angeles County already passed the requirement to wear condoms in 2012 that does not have the language used in this measure.
Proposition 61 – NO
State Prescription Drug Purchases. Pricing Standards…Would probably increase prices not reduce them for many medicines needed. It sounds good in theory but is not feasible. It only affects state run plans and could actually increase cost for most other Californians.
Proposition 62 – YES
Death Penalty. (Repeals Death Penalty)…This is where my faith and values have the biggest impact on my decisions. While I certainly have empathy and pain for those families of victims of those serving on death row, we cannot and should not be the judge of life and death. I know the arguments and I am not unsympathetic to the discussions, and know that I would want extreme action taken against anyone who hurt my family. But we as a country should not be taking a life. Even one that has killed someone else. I am very pro law enforcement and I believe in punishment but I cannot vote to continue state sanctioned executions.
Proposition 63 – NO
Firearms. Ammunition Sales…The Senate passed similar laws just a few months ago. This law was put on by Lt. Governor Newson and has become a political battle within his own party as to who takes the credit for it.
Proposition 64 – NO
Marijuana Legalization. Initiative Statute…I wrote an OP ED article last month about this measure. It is a badly written law that has caused much concern. For example, TV smoking ads would be allowed after a 41 year absence. There is no regulation to the edibles that target our kids. Law enforcement is very concerned that there is no basis to what constitutes an impaired driver. Too many questions and not enough answers.
Proposition 65 – YES
Carry-Out Bags. Charges…The revenue a grocer charges for paper bags would not go directly back to the grocery store chain. If there is a charge for paper bags then it should go to an environmental cause and not to the grocers.
Proposition 66 – NO
Death Penalty. Procedures. (Reforms Death Penalty) – See my comments on Prop 62 above.
Proposition 67 – NO
Referendum on Plastic Bag Ban
I hope this helps and I hope that you will vote, regardless of our differences. Voting is the best way to truly celebrate the amazing freedoms and liberties this great country represents.
Mario A. Guerra is the former Mayor of Downey, past President of Independent Cities Association and Treasurer of the California Republican Party. He can be reached at www.marioaguerra.com