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California Voters' Guide: November 2012 Ballot Propositions

Californians face a daunting package of ballot questions. Here, in brief, is the free minds and free markets perspective on each proposition.

Adrian Moore
October 17, 2012

Executive Summary

It is election season and that means Californians once again face a daunting package of ballot questions on difficult public policy issues. This year’s initiatives cover a wide range of topics including taxes, campaign contributions, criminal justice, budget reform, food labeling and much more. As has been the case in years past, the ballot measures are not always as straightforward as they first appear. Some are grounded on questionable assumptions and value judgments. Others, despite admirable motivations, would nevertheless lead to unintended or unforeseeable adverse consequences. Some of these initiatives would empower the government to restrict individual freedom and choice in the name of uncertain benefits. And several would further burden California taxpayers by dramatically expanding the size and scope of state government.

California’s unemployment rate is at 10.7 percent (as of July data), and the current state budget is already billions in the red due to shortfalls in tax collections. Voters are going to have to look seriously at the choices these initiatives represent.

The nonprofit and nonpartisan Reason Foundation evaluated the 11 initiatives on this year’s ballot. We provide a "plain English" summary of the arguments for and against each proposition, some information on supporters and opponents and funding of the campaigns, and some discussion of what Reason judges voters should think about when deciding on each proposition.

Here, in brief, is the free minds and free markets perspective on each proposition.

Proposition 30: Governor Brown's Temporary Sales and Income Tax Increase

A constitutional amendment that increases the state sales tax increase to 7.5% for 4 years and raises income taxes on the wealthy for 7 years to bring in an additional $6 to $9 billion each year.

Proposition 31: State Budget and Funding Reforms

A bundle of budget and spending reforms, notably including shifting to a two-year budget instead of an annual budget, requiring cuts or new funds to balance any new spending, letting the governor make spending cuts in a fiscal emergency, requiring performance reviews and measures for state and local budgets, and publication of all bills at least 3 days prior to a vote.

Proposition 32: Restrictions on Union and Corporate Campaign Contributions and Payroll Deductions for Political Funding

Prohibits unions, corporations and government contractors from contributing to candidates and their committees and from automatically deducting money from worker's paychecks to use for political purposes.

Proposition 33: Auto Insurance Based on Driver's History of Insurance Coverage

Allows insurance companies to offer customers switching from other companies a type of good customer discount for continuous coverage.

Proposition 34: Replace Death Penalty with Life in Prison

Replaces death penalty with life without parole. Applies retroactively. Requires murderers to work and pay restitution. Creates a new $100 million fund for unsolved homicide and rape cases.

Proposition 35: Increased Punishment for Human Trafficking

Increases punishments for people convicted of human trafficking. Makes sex traffickers register as sex offenders and requires registered sex offenders to disclose their Internet accounts.

Proposition 36: Reform of Three Strikes Law

Changes Three Strikes so that criminals get a life sentence only when the third strike is "serious or violent" or is a certain kind of sex, drug or firearm offense. Allows resentencing some three-strikers whose third strike was not serious or violent, unless one of their strikes was for rape, murder or child molestation. Non-violent third-strikes would be punished with double the normal sentence for the crime committed.

Proposition 37: Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods

Requires labeling of foods with GMOs. Prohibits labeling or advertising such food as "natural." Exempts labeling foods that are "certified organic," even if they do contain GMOs.

Proposition 38: Tax Increase for School Funding

Increases income taxes on most Californians for 12 years to raise about $10 billion a year earmarked for schools and early childhood development.

Proposition 39: Tax Increase on Multistate Businesses and Funding Clean Energy

Requires multistate businesses to pay about $1 billion per year more taxes in California by removing a current loophole. Half of revenues go to green energy programs.

Proposition 40: Redistricting State Senate Districts

A yes vote confirms the Citizens Redistricting Commission boundaries. A no vote overturns them and sends to courts to redraw.


Introduction

It is election season and that means Californians once again face a daunting package of ballot questions on difficult public policy issues. This year’s initiatives cover a wide range of topics including taxes, campaign contributions, criminal justice, budget reform, food labeling, and much more. As has been the case in years past, the ballot measures are not always as straightforward as they first appear. Some are premised on questionable assumptions and value judgments. Others, despite admirable motivations, would nevertheless lead to unintended or unforeseeable adverse consequences. Some of these initiatives would empower the government to restrict individual freedom and choice in the name of uncertain benefits. And several would further burden California taxpayers by dramatically expanding the size and scope of state government.

California’s unemployment rate is at 10.7 percent (as of July data), and the current state budget is already billions in the red due to shortfalls in tax collections.  Voters are going to have to look seriously at the choices these initiatives represent.  

The nonprofit and nonpartisan Reason Foundation evaluated the 11 initiatives on this year’s ballot.  We provide a "plain English" summary of the arguments for and against each proposition, some information on supporters and opponents and funding of the campaigns, and some discussion of what Reason judges voters should think about when deciding on each proposition.


Propositions


Adrian Moore is Vice President, Policy

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