Napa County voters will be confronted by a series of measures on the fall ballot, ranging from the silly to the deadly serious.
A number of local and state initiatives deal with building affordable housing and controlling the cost of existing housing. We will deal with those in a future editorial. In the meantime, we will take a look at the remaining state-level initiatives.
By far the most important for us is Proposition 6, which would roll back the 2017 hike in the gas tax, passed by the Legislature. That made a number of changes to fuel taxes and auto fees, but the centerpiece is a 12-cent-per-gallon hike in the gas tax, designed to fund road maintenance. That would raise about $4.4 billion this year and around $5.1 billion annually by 2020, when all of the changes would be in effect.
Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox jumped into action, collecting signatures for a measure to repeal the tax hike. He has grounded the campaign firmly in populist rhetoric, saying the state legislature should be cleaning up rampant waste and corruption before taxing the little guy.
As attractive as the mantra of “cheap gas” sounds, however, this is a cynical and counterproductive political stunt by a man whose previous grand ideas for ballot initiatives were to increase the size of the California State Legislature from 120 members to 12,000 (we kid you not) and to force legislators to wear NASCAR-style logos on their suits representing their largest donors (again, we kid you not).
Repealing the gas tax would cost the state an immediate $2.4 billion and possibly as much as $50 billion over 10 years. It would also make it more difficult for any future Legislature to raise the tax again.
If you believe that the state is somehow squandering the extra tax money, we invite you to take a drive Upvalley and look at the beautiful new pavement that runs from below Trower Avenue nearly to St. Helena. That is work funded by the gas tax hike, legislation known as SB 1, money that would be lost for any future maintenance projects elsewhere.
We urge you to resist Cox’s political hype and vote No on Proposition 6.
Here are the rest:
Propositions 1 and 2 deal with bond funding for affordable housing and homelessness prevention. We will address those in a future editorial.
Proposition 3 would authorize almost $9 billion in bonds for various water storage and conveyance projects and for efforts to restore habitat and preserve groundwater supplies. Critics of this measure have little to argue other than to note that it doesn’t specifically authorize any new dams or large reservoirs. Since water is so vital to our future, and the critics’ arguments are so thin, we urge a Yes vote on this measure.
Proposition 4 would authorize $1.5 billion in state bonds to fund construction and improvements at the state’s eight non-profit hospitals for children and the five U.C. children’s hospitals. There is no serious opposition to this measure and we recommend a Yes vote.
Proposition 5 would allow homeowners over 55 to transfer their property tax base, calculated under 1978’s Proposition 13, when they move from one home to another, saving them potentially expensive tax hikes when the new property is reassessed. Under current law, homeowners can already do this when they move within their own counties, and counties have the option of allowing this when homeowners move across county lines. Ten counties already allow the cross-boundary moves and this measure would expand it statewide. Backers say this would set a uniform and fair state standard, while critics and the state Legislative Analyst say it could cost local governments around $100 million per year. We don’t have a strong recommendation on this one, but we are concerned about the loss of local revenue and local control, so we lean against.
Proposition 7 would permit the Legislature to make changes to the federal Daylight Savings Time, such as opting out (as Arizona does) or going to year-round DST. Such changes would require a two-thirds vote. This amends the 1949 state initiative opting into Daylight Savings Time, which did not permit the Legislature to make changes. While this hardly seems like the most important use of our ballot, we see no harm in saying Yes.
Proposition 8 would place limits on the price of kidney dialysis treatments, a roughly $3 billion-per-year industry. Backers say it would prevent overpriced treatment in substandard clinics, funded on the backs of patients held hostage by their very lives. Critics say it would force limits on the staffing, services and care at clinics. We were unable to sort out the reality behind each claim, but we were troubled by the notion of using the voter initiative process to set limits on medical care for a specific condition. We therefore lean against this measure.
Proposition 9 would have split California into three separate states. Fortunately, a state judge removed the question from the ballot. We would have recommended a strong No anyway since it is a stupid idea.
Proposition 10 would roll back limits on local rent control ordinances. We will address this in a future editorial.
Proposition 11 would undo a recent court decision that requires ambulance companies to give paramedics uninterruptible meal breaks. Backers say this decision makes no sense for emergency workers and there is no official opposition. We recommend a Yes vote.
Proposition 12 would set new standards for certain farm animals, particularly requiring egg-laying hens to be raised cage free by 2022. While we don’t object to the general idea, we are troubled that the measure would forbid the sale of animal products from out of state that were not raised in accordance with the California standard. We recommend a No vote.