PI Recommends: Yes on Prop 37, Support Soda Taxes
Our Recommendations on Key California Ballot Measures
As we do every election, Prevention Institute is happy to provide our thoughts on some key issues on the statewide ballot and some important local issues. This year, three measures rise to the top of our priority list as an organization promoting equity, healthy communities and access to nutritious food. Let’s begin with those:
Prop. 37: YES! Right to Know if Food is Genetically Modified. This measure will require food sold in California to disclose in a label any ingredients that have been genetically engineered. More than 40 countries currently do this, including nations in the European Union; why not us? Consumers should have the right to know this information before they buy. We are an original cosponsor of this measure.
Richmond Measures N & O: El Monte Measure H: Yes! Tax on Sugary Drinks. Americans today consume about 278 more calories a day than they did in the mid-1970s and 40 percent come from sugary drinks, according to recent studies. Health advocates in Richmond in the north and El Monte in the south are acting locally to try and improve their community’s health with similar measures imposing a penny-an-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. Industry front groups— the “Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes” in Richmond and “El Monte Citizens Against Beverage Taxes—are massively outspending proponents of both measures. The money—$2.4 million to oppose the Richmond measure and $1.3 million against El Monte’s—comes mostly from the American Beverage Association whose members include Coca-Cola Co. and Pepsico. That should tell you all you need to know.
Other California Propositions
Prop. 30: Yes to Boost Education Funding. For six straight years, California school districts have been slashing teachers, counselors, libraries and nurses, imperiling the ability of students—especially those in low-income communities—to get a good education. Community colleges have hiked fees and eliminated classes. Prop. 30 would increase taxes on people earning over $250,000 a year and boost the sales tax by a quarter-cent for four years to fund public schools and community colleges. It also would help defray the public-safety costs local governments must absorb as non-violent state inmates are shifted to local control. Gov. Jerry Brown has worked with teachers, unions, school districts and other stakeholders to create this initiative. Failure to pass it would be disastrous, leading to cuts of about $6 billion from schools, community colleges and public safety departments.
Prop. 32: No! Cuts Political Donations by Unions, Ignores Corporations. This unbalanced measure, financed largely by two billionaires, takes aim directly at unions and their ability to raise and spend money on political campaigns. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, business interests spent $700 million to influence the outcome of elections in California from 2001 to 2011 while unions spent $284 million. The measure bars unions and corporations from donating directly to campaigns and bars unions from using payroll deductions to collect donations from its members, even if the members wish to give. The measure does nothing to limit donations by hedge funds, insurance companies, investment firms and businesses that aren’t structured as corporations. Nor does it regulate giving to so-called independent committees—Super PACS—that are becoming the major players in political campaigns. The League of Women Voters and most unions oppose it. So do we.
Prop. 33: No. Auto Insurance Rates. This measure allows insurance companies to offer discounts to drivers who switch companies as long as they were continuously insured. But it penalizes people who drop their insurance, perhaps because they stopped driving altogether for a time (an act we’d like to encourage). It’s backed by insurance company executives and opposed by Consumers Union, which says it will raise rates for many people.
Prop. 34: YES! Abolishes the Death Penalty in California. More than 700 inmates await execution in California, the largest Death Row in the country. They are mostly people of color, reflecting the racial imbalance embedded in the criminal justice system. This measure would replace the death penalty with life imprisonment and apply to those now awaiting execution. The state’s Legislative Analyst estimates the bill would, in a few years, save $130 million a year in money now spent on appeals and other legal costs. It also would keep the state from executing innocent people.
Prop. 36: Yes. Revises Three Strikes Law. After California’s three-strikes law passed in 1994, the state began locking up inmates for longer periods of time and the prison population grew by 46 percent to reach about 163,000 by the end of 2010. Today 3500 inmates are serving terms of 25 years to life for non-violent, non-serious third-strike crimes. This wastes the money of Californians and the lives of non-violent offenders. Prop. 36 would revise the law so people who already had two felony convictions would no longer get life sentences if convicted of a non-violent third offense. It will reduce the prison population and help address gaping racial disparities: African-Americans are 6 percent of California’s population yet make up 44 percent of those convicted of a third strike. It would also save $70 million to $90 million a year and is a badly needed first step in the effort to change the focus on incarceration over education and social justice.
Prop. 38: Yes. Another tax measure to support schools.
Prop. 39: Yes. Taxes for Multistate Corporations. Today, corporations that operate in California and other states get to choose which of several methods they will use to calculate the taxes they’ll pay. This measure will take away that latitude and require them to pay taxes based on the portion of their sales take place in the state. If one-quarter of their sales are in California, one-fourth of their profits would be subject to California taxes. This would bring in about $1 billion in new state revenue that would go to increasing the use of alternative energy and train workers for jobs in that field.
Alameda County Measure B1: Yes! Continues a half-cent sales tax that will provide $7.7 billion for transportation in Alameda County over the next 30 years. Almost half goes to mass transit, 30 percent goes to roads and 8 percent goes to improving bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.