Every election cycle I am deluged with requests for opinions on the always-complicated propositions on the California ballot. In response, I began writing my own summaries to help my friends and family who had questions. The people who request my opinion obviously trust me to deliver the most accurate information possible. For those who don’t know me (or trust me), I’ve tried to lay out the process in a few steps to help everyone make their own informed, independent decisions.
First I list the Prop and the summary bullet points that describe each one. Since the language of voter guides is typically designed to confuse the voter, I lay out what your YES vote means and what your NO vote means. Then I give my personal opinion of the proposition and how I plan to vote, just in case you find that influential in some way.
After nearly a decade of doing this and also reporting on government in general, I’ve learned a few tricks along the way. It’s important to keep in mind that the language of your ballot is never neutral. Many millions of dollars and many hours in court are spent trying to coerce the language and frame it in a way that favors any given sponsor group or political group. It’s an ugly process. I daresay most normal Californians would vote “no” on nearly everything if politicians were required to write straight-forward summaries of their propositions.
A “bond” is just a non-alarming word for “loan”. A “fee” is the state’s way of avoiding using the word “tax” because most taxes must be approved by the voters.
There’s also a governor’s race and while I don’t feel particularly enthused about John Cox, Gavin Newsome would be a terrible influence for California. One needs only to look at how he left San Francisco after being the mayor there for years. They are literally swimming in poop. Jerry Brown vetoed a lot of the crazier things that would have sunk our state, even if he did make other bad choices. Newsome doesn’t have the education or intelligence to peer past his partisan pondering the same way Brown occasionally does. Our state sadly suffers from permanent one-party rule. The governor is the last line of defense against Sacramento’s random, thoughtless, constant legislating. Newsome would just be a blank check for the legislature. I predict if he wins we will see a mass exodus of business and residents. Some of his plans are truly scary. Vote for Cox or just leave governor blank. Don’t vote for Newsome. In fact, don’t vote for anyone based on their party affiliation. That’s a garbage way to decide life in a state like California.
We are the example of what happens when one party has absolute power, so vote accordingly.
If you blindly trust my voting sensibilities (which I hope you DO NOT) and just want a quick summary, here it is: YES for Governor Cox, YES on Prop 6 (gas tax repeal), NO on everything else.
Otherwise, I hope this Guide to the Voter Guide helps you in some way.
Proposition 1 (Authorizes bonds to fund specified housing assistance programs)
- $1.5 billion for multifamily housing for low income residents – providing $450 million for infill and transit-oriented housing projects, $300 million for farmworker housing, $300 million for manufactured and mobile homes
- provides money for buyers, infrastructure financing and matching grants
- appropriates General Fund revenues to pay off bonds for existing programs that have no revenue or insufficient revenues.
Projected fiscal impact: adds about $170 million annually in interest and loan repayments to the annual budget for the next 35 years.
What your YES vote means: You will be authorizing the state to allot $4 billion for housing programs.
What your NO vote means: You do not approve of the state allocating $4 billion for housing programs.
How I’m voting and why: A BOND IS A LOAN! I’ll be voting NO – which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who ever reads anything I write. My general rule for this state is to vote against any new spending until we can reign in our current spending crisis. However, that’s not the only reason. You’ll notice I highlighted the final bullet point in the description. That’s because – as with every voter guide – the real intention of the proposition is always casually dropped at the end. Whenever you see the words “bond” and “general fund” you should run and don’t look back. This isn’t an affordable housing program, this is a scheme to circumvent the measure requiring certain taxpayer funds to be used for what they were allocated for – a measure that Californians were forced to vote into law in order to keep their government from stealing funds from transportation and education coffers to fund their campaign promises. With a trillion dollar unfunded pension liability looming and a law that says tax increases must be approved by voters, the state is desperate to divert money from other areas to fulfill their unkeepable, never-ending promises made during the election cycle. The General Fund is also where politicians can pull money from without having to be too specific about where it’s going…it’s basically a big slush fund, particularly at election time. You can bet your meager savings account that any proposition that includes language to divert money to the General Fund will end up diverting nearly all of that money to the General Fund. On top of all that, California’s housing crisis will never be solved by taking money from working people to build more housing. Ours is a problem of overregulation and crushing taxes that drive up the cost of new builds and home ownership. If this prop passes we will be right back here in the next cycle voting to increase funding for affordable housing because they’ve spent it in the General Fund. This is not only not the answer, it’s a deceptive ploy to get around the laws you’ve already voted on to restrain Sacramento.
Proposition 2 (Authorizes bonds to fund existing housing program for individuals with mental illness)
- Ratifies No Place Like Home Program which establishes permanent housing for homeless and mentally ill residents
- establishes $2 billion in new bonds
- amends the Mental Health Services Act to authorize transfers of up to $140 million annually from the existing Mental Health Services Fund
Projected fiscal impact: adds $140 million annually to the budget in interest and loan payments.
What your YES vote means: You approve of the state borrowing $2 billion dollars for housing for the homeless and mentally ill.
What your NO vote means: You do not approve of the state borrowing $2 billion dollars for housing for the homeless and mentally ill.
How I’m voting and why: A BOND IS A LOAN! You guessed it…I’m voting NO. This prop is so sneaky for a lot of reasons, one being the typical reason that there is language built in that makes the allocation of the funds a bit…fuzzy. The language of the bill suggests that the state will use money from existing homeless/mental health programs to foot the $140 million annual cost of repaying the loan. It also creates a $100 million fund vaguely earmarked for bureaucrats…a slush fund, basically. There’s not specification for that money, it would simply be for bureaucrats to do their bureaucrat things to the tune of $100 million. Look up the term “baseline budgeting” for a better understanding of why bureaucrats pad budgets like this.
This prop is also a sham because in 2017 we passed Prop 63 which required counties and local governments to provide their own housing and assistance to the mentally ill and homeless. So this would make Prop 2 a redundant prop. Why would the government be proposing a redundant prop? Once again, the key is in the very last bullet point (I wrote them in the order the guide lists them). They need a legal way to divert funds from local municipalities in order to give that money to the “bureaucratic” fund.
Another giant clue as to the shadiness of this bill is written in the official guide itself. On page 19, the very first column admits that despite all this money flying around, nothing can happen until and unless the courts approve of the state’s homeless plans. Currently there is a brutal, ongoing battle between individual neighborhoods and cities and the state government to resist putting the homeless/mentally ill housing in residential areas. Such resistance will continue as the homeless crisis worsens and this program will be held up indefinitely in the court system. Meanwhile, Sacramento still has the legal authority to divert that $140 million to wherever they want. It’s a complicated scheme but once you know the clues to look for it’s pretty transparent. NO on this one.
Proposition 3 (Authorizes bonds to fund projects for water supply and quality, watershed, fish, wildlife, water conveyance, and groundwater sustainability and storage)
- Authorizes $8.877 billion in bonds for infrastructure projects like watershed and fisheries improvements, water conveyance and storage
- appropriates money from General Fund to pay off bonds
- Requires matching fund from non-state sources for certain projects
Projected fiscal impact: $430 million annually over the next 40 years to repay bonds with interest
What your YES vote means: You authorize the state to borrow over $8 billion for various infrastructure projects related to water.
What your NO vote means: You do not authorize the state to borrow over $8 billion for various infrastructure projects related to water.
How I’m voting and why: A BOND IS A LOAN! Did you notice the use of “General Fund” in the summary? Are you starting to see a pattern? In 2016 voters approved several bonds that were supposed to be used for all of these projects, including water reclamation, clean water initiatives and storage. Why are they asking for more money? No really, ask yourself why. The answer is almost always “General Fund”. That money is no longer there for these same projects. Most of it got used elsewhere because of the same vague language allowing the General Fund to raid the funds. So now they’re back for more money. There was actually a very good rebuttal to this measure in the Voter Guide on page 26.
New water comes from the sky- rain on the lowlands and snow on the mountains. The only way to collect and store rain and snowmelt is with suitably-placed dams on our major rivers. Prop 3 doesn’t even fund one dam.
In fact, this measure is so awful that the Voter Guide legislative analysis couldn’t even hide their own Ponzi scheme. It’s right there on page 25, first column.
The [current Cap and Trade] program causes some water agencies to have higher electricity costs to operate parts of their water delivery systems, such as pumps and water treatment plants. This proposition requires that a portion of the funding the state receives from the sale of [Cap and Trade] permits be provided to four water agencies. The amount of the funding would be equal to each agency’s additional electricity costs associated with [Cap and Trade].
See how that works? The government’s poorly thought-out, oppressive “solutions” to an issue causes immediate hardship that is passed on to the consumer and then the government passes more poorly thought-out legislation to solve the problem their solution created. If this passes, next election cycle you’ll be asked to approve more bonds to fix the fix to the fix to the problem. I’d bet my energy efficient shower head on it.
They’ve barely tried to disguise this one as an environmental issue. I will not add one more penny to the ridiculously wasteful budget of California. I’ll be voting NO on Prop 3.
Proposition 4 (Authorizes bonds funding construction at hospitals providing children’s healthcare)
- authorizes $1.5 billion in bonds to be repaid from the General Fund for grants for construction, expansion, renovation and euqipping of qualifying children’s hospitals.
- Designates 72% of funds to qualifying private nonprofit hospitals, 18% of funds to University of California hospitals and 10% of funds to public and private nonprofit hospitals providing services to children eligible for the California children’s services program.
Projected fiscal impact: Loan repayments and interest of about $80 million annually over the next 35 years
What your YES vote means: You approve of authorizing $1.5 billion in new loans to support construction and expansion for qualifying children’s hospitals.
What your NO vote means: You do not approve of the state taking out $1.5 billion in loans to support construction and expansion for qualifying children’s hospitals.
How I’m voting and why: A BOND IS A LOAN! I know what you’re thinking…”Kira, why do you hate children?”…well, first of all children are dirty and unruly and there’s plenty of reasons not to like them. But kids are people too so I guess they deserve our help. However, this bill isn’t help. It’s a tax increase disguised as charity for children. State legislators deny it will increase property taxes, but the truth is that they will most likely have to do that if the measure passes. How does the saying go? It’s better to seek forgiveness than ask permission? California voters have already approved nearly $2 billion in loans in 2004 and again in 2008 for this exact same proposal. You might think that’s a long time and they need more, but the summary itself admits on page 28 that the majority of this type of funding is already earmarked in Medical. We’ve never not funded hospital construction and services for children. In my opinion this is just another cash grab at the General Fund and an attempt to raise property taxes in spite of Prop 13. The main official argument against this prop seems to be the property tax angle, but my main reason for disliking it is the added cost and the redundancy. If you pay attention to the annual fiscal impacts of each of these props you’ll start to see all this stuff adding up in a disturbing way. We’re four props in right now and already we’re looking at almost $14 billion in loans and nearly an extra billion dollars a year in interest and loan repayments added to our budget every year for at least the next 35 years. We’re not even finished with the guide yet! Prop 4 is a NOPE from me.
Proposition 5 (Changes requirements for certain property owners to transfer their property tax base to replacement property. Constitutional amendment)
- Removes current “replacement property” requirements for homeowners over 55
- requires adjustments to the property’s tax base based on the new property’s value.
Projected fiscal impact: Schools and local governments lose over $100 million to $1 billion in annual property taxes
What your YES vote means: Yes, you approve a constitutional amendment to the property tax code
What your NO vote means: No, you do not approve a constitutional amendment to the property tax code.
How I’m voting and why: This one was a tough one. I had to read it several times. The real information for this measure isn’t really in the summary, it’s in the rebuttal arguments so if you want to understand more about it read those. One huge clue for me that this is not kosher is the prop’s name – the “Property Tax Fairness Initiative”. Having worked in politics for almost a decade now I can tell you with complete confidence that politicians typically name bills to indicate the exact opposite of what they actually do. Anything named “affordable” makes something unaffordable. Anything named “fair” will include some discriminatory element. Anything named “neutral” is decidedly partisan. It’s just the way it is. Upon a careful reading of this bill and the rebuttals I think it isn’t anything more than the state trying to wrestle some dollars from local municipalities. It basically removes some of the property tax funds from local coffers and puts them in state coffers. This isn’t an unusual attempt at raiding local bank accounts. Towns and cities that have been responsible with their budgets typically pay the price for it by having their surpluses raided by the state. This bill doesn’t actually help anyone and it’s obvious when you read the language. It just transfers tax dollars. Prop 5 gets a NO vote from me.
Proposition 6 (GAS TAX!)
- Repeals 2017 transportation taxes and fees that pay for repairs and improvements to roads and highways
- Requires the legislture to submit any measure enatcting specifice taxes or fees on gas or diesel fuel or on the privilege to the operate a vehicle on public highways, to the electorate for approval.
Projected fiscal impact: denies the state $5.1 billion in new taxes; requirement for approval from voters could result in lower revenues.
What your YES vote means: You agree to repeal this sneaky tax passed in the middle of the night without one attempt to inform or poll the public.
What your NO vote means: You agree to keep this sneaky tax passed in the middle of the night without one attempt to inform or poll the public.
How I’m voting and why: Okay, I admit I didn’t stay very objective in the summary but this is probably the most important Prop on the ballot this year. It is woefully indicative of how Sacramento does business. Years ago California residents were forced to enact a constitutional amendment to protect themselves from oppressive, unapproved, rapid property tax increases. Now we have to do the same for our gas taxes. The state already has the highest gas taxes in the nation. However, they’ve been stolen from the roads fund and applied to various other unfunded and overspent areas of the state government. We have the money – they just keep taking it. We should definitely not reward the underhanded tactics used to pass this bill – tactics that include dishing out tax revenue bribes to hold-out representatives whom have since been recalled by their outraged constituents. This gas tax adds about an extra $1000 per year per vehicle in every household. Can you scrape together another grand each year to pay a tax for roads that are already supposed to be funded? I know I can’t. YES ON 6! If you don’t vote for any other legislation, vote YES on this one and be done.
Proposition 7 (Allows legislature to change daylight saving time period)
- some weird stuff about heart attacks and sleep depravation and electricity
Projected fiscal impact: none
What your YES vote means: Yes, we should make Daylight Savings Time our year-round, permanent time
What your NO vote means: No, we shouldn’t mess with DST…just leave things the way they are.
How I’m voting and why: The rebuttal against this prop says the state tried this in 1974 and it “was a disaster” that ended after just 10 months because people hated that the sun rose so late in the morning. This seems to be a prop you can judge based on your own feelings about DST (particularly as there seems to be no fiscal impact). I think if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it, and if it is broke definitely don’t let Sacramento “fix” it. I’ll be voting NO on this prop.
Proposition 8 (Regulates amounts outpatient kidney dialysis clinics charge for dialysis treatment)
- limits the charges to 115 percent of the costs for direct patient care and quality improvement costs, including training, patient education and technology support
- requires rebates and penalties if charges exceed that amoung
- requires annual reporting to the state
- prohibits clinics from refusing to treat patients based on source of payment
Projected fiscal impact: vague
What your YES vote means: Yes, you approve of Prop 8 to regulate pricing and restrict dialysis care.
What your NO vote means: You do not approve of Prop 8 to regulate pricing and restrict dialysis care.
How I’m voting and why: This one is sneaky. The title reads like an attempt to lower the cost of dialysis. Here’s another tip for making a decision on a measure you’re not sure about…look at who is listed in opposition. All of the California nurses and doctors associations oppose Prop 8. Even the NAACP opposes it. That’s because it doesn’t actually lower cost. Instead it unionizes dialysis care, basically. It restricts payments and puts the government in charge of what care can be offered rather than that being a decision between a doctor and their patients. It restricts where dialysis can happen, which will drastically alter the availability of care in lower income neighborhoods. It also restricts the ability of family members to act as dialysis care-givers . It’s a garbage prop, a naked attempt at hijacking an arm of healthcare and restricting medical entitlements. I have to go with the medical professionals on this one. I’ll be voting NO on Prop 8.
Proposition 10 (Expands local governments’ authority to enact rent control on residential property)
- rent control
Projected fiscal impact: vague
What your YES vote means: Yes, you want rent control
What your NO vote means: No, you don’t want rent control.
How I’m voting and why: Rent control is one of the most disastrous policies for low-income families any city or state can enact. Wherever it is tried it makes for more expensive housing, housing shortages and decreased standards of living. A voter guide isn’t the place to break down the economics of it all but let’s take NYC as a quick example. They have rent control. We’re all familiar with how hard it is to find housing in NYC even as I write this. What do you think happens to an apartment that is designated for rent control? A few things – it ends up getting passed down from family member to family member or traded off in bribes because it is such a coveted commodity. It ends up becoming a legacy home rather than a public service. Because the turnover becomes so low, rent-control housing becomes scarce. Landlords can’t make the money they need to properly upkeep a rent-controlled apartment so they will often let them fall into disrepair. Rent-control raises the cost of all the other housing owned by the landlord because they need to make up the losses by jacking up everyone else’s rent. And so much more. Rent control is awful. Like Prop 8, even the NAACP is opposed because they understand that minority communities would be the most negatively affected due to their income status. I would never vote for rent control and if California enacts this prop we will see housing costs skyrocket, without a doubt. Absolutely, 100% NO on Prop 10.
Prop 11 (Requires private-sector emergency ambulance employees to remain on-call during work breaks; eliminates employer liability)
- makes labor law entitling hourly employees to take work breaks for meals and rest without being on-call inapplicable to private sector employees.
- eliminates employer’s liability
- requires employers to provide certain mental health services
Projected fiscal impact: vague but probably will cost the state millions to police
What your YES vote means: Yes, you approve of stripping private ambulance employees of their off-duty work breaks.
What your NO vote means: No, you don’t approve of stripping private ambulance employees of their off-duty work breaks.
How I’m voting and why: Oh, come on! I nearly lost an eyeball from rolling my eyes so hard reading this prop. It is a transparent attempt to punish private ambulance employees who don’t/won’t belong to a union. To understand why this is even on the ballot you have to understand that the Supreme Court recently struck down the legality of forcing people to pay union dues if they don’t like the way those dues are spent. This opens the door for a mass exodus from forced unions. California is a heavy union state. In order to counteract the ruling many unions are seeking state law that would punish people for not belonging to a union in certain careers. This is one of them. I mean, seriously – do you really want your ambulance driver racing to save your life when he hasn’t had a proper break to eat or pee in 12 hours? The voter guide has the audacity to suggest to you that this measure will cut down on any delays in emergency service while clearly hoping you won’t ask why it’s so important for private employees to stay on-call during breaks but not union employees. NO on 11. This one is truly stupid. It deserves to fail spectacularly.
Proposition 12 (establishes new standards for confinement of specified farm animals; bans the sale of noncomplying products)
- establishes new minimum space requirements for confining veal calves, breeding pigs and egg-laying hens
- requires egg-laying hens be raised in a cage-free environment
- prohibits commercial sales of specified meat and egg products
- defines sales violations as unfair competition
- creates good faith defense for sellers
- requires State of California to issue implementing regulations
Projected fiscal impact: vague but likely adds millions to state costs for policing
What your YES vote means: Yes you want new standards and more requirements for specified farm animals.
What your NO vote means: No, everything is fine…just leave it alone.
How I’m voting and why: I can’t believe this even made it to the ballot given how many “hippies” live here. You need to read between the lines a bit to understand this legislation and hippies don’t really like doing that so I can only assume this got on there as an “animal welfare” plea. The truth is this prop would basically erase private growing and farming. It will absolutely raise the cost of your meat and dairy, but outside of that it will put an end to small farming, backyard farmers…anyone who is in this state trying to live sustainably by producing their own food. They will not be allowed to sell their eggs or meat and non-pasteurized milk will become illegal. This prop thwarts any attempt to live naturally and sustainably when it comes to food. It rewards corporations and punishes consumers and environmentally conscious farmers and growers. There is also a trojan horse tucked into this prop which would allow the legislature to change anything in the measure at any time without notifying the public. Our legislature has never proven itself worthy of such blind trust. NO on Prop 12.