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General Election, Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Each election I research and analyze the propositions on the California ballot to create this voting guide, and they represent nothing other than my own personal view of these measures. I do this analysis on a non-partisan basis, but that doesn't mean I have no opinion. I do, but I believe it's transparent (note that transparency means only that I claim no hidden agenda, not that I'm trying to be unbiased).

I generally have no connection with any group supporting or opposing any of these propositions.

My main intent is to get to the bottom of these issues, knowing that the real purpose is not always evident. Once uncovered, I apply a mainly libertarian eye to them.

I'm more interested in examining the issues thoughtfully than I am in getting you to vote the way I do, so I hope these pages help you understand the issues in front of us.

Educated votes are better votes.

I hope my thoughts are helpful.

Other resources:

Important Note: if you are tempted to say "The hell with it" and just vote "no" on all of them, please do not. An uninformed vote, even a no, may have an unintended consequence that you don't want.

Either educate yourself on the measure, or leave that spot blank. Really. This matters.

Summary of positions

Click each link for the rationale for each position.

Proposition My Position Description / Title
California icon Prop 68 No Bonds for Parks and Water Projects
California icon Prop 69 Yes Transportation Revenue lock-in
California icon Prop 70 No Supermajority for cap-and-trade
California icon Prop 71 Yes Ballot measure effective dates `
California icon Prop 72 Yes Rain-capture assessment exclusion

California icon Prop 68: Bonds for Parks, Natural Resource Protection, Flood Protection

This measure authorizes $4B in bonds for a handful of purposes: support for state and local parks, a number of natural-resources protection purposes, flood protection (repairing dams and levees) and related water projects.

The projects themselves are generally reasonable, they all look like things that need to be taken care of in the nature of maintenance and upkeep, but I'm voting no because these are 40 year bonds, which is beyond irresponsible.

Bonds are appropriate to spread out the cost of something over the useful life of the project: if the State were proposing (say) a new dam that might be expected to last 100 years, then a 40 year loan is entirely reasonable.

And though I was very much against the ridiculous bullet train to nowhere, the financing via long-term bonds was nevertheless appropriate for that kind of project. I opposed that project on the merits, not on the financing.

In your own life, you'd take out a 30 year loan for your house, but you'd never do a 30 year loan for your car.

Ongoing maintenance should be paid for with ongoing regular state revenue, and foisting this on one or two generations down the road is what you do when you think that money grows on grandchildren.

I have not looked too closely at the specific merits, but we do see the usual disingenuous "does not raise taxes" argument by the supporters.

My vote: NO

More info:
Thumbs up Yes on 68
Thumbs down (no website provided)

California icon Prop 69: Transportation Revenue spending restrictions

This measure means to "protect" the revenues raised from recent gas tax and vehicle license fee increases, requiring them to be spent on transportation-related projects.

Spending money collected for a thing on that thing seems like a reasonable and obvious idea: what's not to like, right?

But then one remembers that this was put in place by the same legislators who passed the increases in the first place. Wait: what?

This all feels cynical, as if they're admitting they cannot be trusted to have done this in the first place. I believe there's a movement to get a proposition on the ballot this fall to repeal these taxes, so this smells like it's a reaction to that.

Ultimately I am not sure I see any harm in this even if it won't do what they say they will: money is fungible, and claiming that they only spend transportation money on transportation just means they can reduce general-revenue spending on it.

My vote: Reluctantly Yes

More info:
Thumbs up Yes on 69
Thumbs down (no website known)

California icon Prop 70: Required supermajority for cap-and-trade spending.

This measure makes my head hurt.

It changes the rules for spending money from the climate change "cap and trade" fund to require a supermajority. There are so many ways to look at this that it's hard to tell what to think on the merits.

Superficially I do like the idea of making it harder for the government to spend money, but that ought not be a knee-jerk reaction. Still, here it's not easy to tell what's really behind this.

And the usual shortcut of checking who's for and against it isn't helpful either, because on one hand you have environmental extremists, and on the other hand you have labor unions (among others). Ugh.

What sold me against it was finding that this measure passed in only a few days, without hearings and the usually trappings of legislative process. When legislators limit their own spending power, there is just no way that this is for my benefit: there's something fishy going on and there's no way I trust them.

This just smells like serious shenanigans to me.

My vote: No

More info:
Thumbs up Yes on 70
Thumbs down No on 70

California icon Prop 71: Effective Date for Ballot Measuires.

This measure would make ballot measures take effect 5 days after the election results have been certified by election officials, instead of the day after the election as happens now (unless the measure provides for a later date).

It's not clear why this is needed, because nothing's official until certified by the Secretary of State anyway, which happens a bit more than a month after the election.

Most of the time the results are obvious, everybody knows on Election Night which measures won and lost, but I suppose there could be cases where late-arriving mail ballots (which are now allowed to arrive after election day) could change the outcome.

Mainly I expect this will impact retroactivity of measures, so there's going to be a roughly six week time period when a law could have been in effect but will now not be.

The opposition side of this measure was written by longtime ballot measure commentator Gary Wesley, who's been "the lone dissentor" for more than 30 years. He makes the good point that this doesn't really seem necessary, and I take it further to wonder what problem this is really meant to solve.

It just feels a little fishy to me, but I'm still voting for it.

My vote: YES

More info:
Thumbs up (No website provided)
Thumbs down (No website provided)

California icon Prop 72: Rainwater-capture exclusion

California has been in drought-y times for a few year now, with many areas having substantial water restrictions (including how often you can water your lawn).

Some homeowners have installed rainwater-capture systems that collect water from the roof into storage tanks that can be used onsite: for flushing toilets, for watering the lawn later, and other uses that don't require drinking quality water.

Normally, improvements you make to your home increase its assessed value used to calculate property taxes, but this measure would exclude the value of rainwater-capture systems from that kind of assessment. Though putting in a new deck might increase your property taxes, putting in a rainwater-capture system won't.

In this respect it joins other kinds of improvements, such as solar panels or earthquake retrofitting as excluded from increases in assessment; this provides an incentive to take these steps deemed socially important.

In practice this won't make that much difference in anybody's tax bill because these systems are just not that expensive, so this seems more symbolic than anything else. I suppose there might be larger impacts for (say) developers of apartments where recapture systems would be more extensive.

This measure had no opposition I could find, though I would be sympathetic to the argument that one should not be playing favors with the tax code this way: it's going to be a magnet for the next special interest to get their own industry excluded from assessment.

But this seems harmless and useful, so I'm ok with it.

My vote: YES

More info:
Thumbs up Yes on 55
Thumbs down Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Assn

Those discovering bad/missing links, typos, or even errors in judgment are encouraged to report them to me: steve@unixwiz.net

Last updated: Mon Nov 7 16:41:44 UTC 2016