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Reason Foundation

Examining California's Ballot Initiatives During this Economic Crisis

Taxpayers should think twice before adding to state's massive pile of debt; gay couples deserve equal rights; state needs sentencing reform

October 14, 2008

Los Angeles (October 14, 2008) - California's deficit may be $15 to $18 billion this year. The state's revenues for the first quarter of this fiscal year were short by more than a billion dollars. Standard & Poor's has warned that California is under a negative credit watch and its credit rating is already the second lowest in the country. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently said the government may need a $7 billion loan to pay its bills.

Despite all this, taxpayers are being asked to approve another $16.8 billion in borrowing. A new series of reports from the Reason Foundation examines all of the propositions on the state ballot, noting that California's general obligation bond debt nearly tripled from $42 billion in fiscal 2001-02 to $120 billion in 2007-08.

Here is a brief summary of Reason Foundation's analysis of the propositions:

Proposition 1A: "…annual ridership for the system by 2030 will likely be a whopping 64 percent below the projections claimed by supporters (23.4 million versus 65.5 million). Construction of the first phase of the project will more likely cost $40-$50 billion (not $33 billion as projected) with annual operating costs up to $1.76 billion (not $1.1 billion as projected)...These bonds will not fund the complete high-passenger train system and California taxpayers would be on the hook for a boondoggle of a massive scale."

Proposition 2: "…a one-size-fits-all approach that hurts California's farmers, reduces consumers' choices, and increases food prices, putting a further strain on household budgets."

Proposition 3: "While ensuring that children's hospitals have the resources to provide for children in their care is undoubtedly important, using bonds to finance the project is fiscally irresponsible."

Proposition 4: "This initiative represents an unwarranted expansion of government control and intrusion into what is currently a private matter involving families, individuals and their physicians."

Proposition 5: "California needs to reform sentencing and parole rules to ensure that public safety is upheld, reserving prison capacity for violent offenders, while helping nonviolent offenders become productive members of society."

Proposition 6: "Rather than adding more felony laws, lawmakers should engage in sentencing reform that will bring clarity and consistency to sentences. One of the most troubling provisions included in Proposition 6 is a change that would allow hearsay evidence or unverified evidence not obtained from actual witnesses in criminal cases. Hearsay is not evidence and allowing it to be treated as such will invariably result in more innocent people going to prison at a time when wrongful convictions due to prosecutorial and judicial abuse are emerging as a serious national concern."

Proposition 7: "…the measure would prevent California electricity customers from benefiting from the innovations and technological breakthroughs in renewable energy research that are expected over the next several years. Proposition 7 would 'lock in' today's expensive technology for tomorrow's energy needs."

Proposition 8: "…would result in California once again extending 'separate-but-equal' opportunities to its gay residents. If the rights are the same, the law should not distinguish between types of 'family relationships' or call them 'marriage' for one group of people and 'domestic partnerships' for another. A gay couple's decision to marry does not infringe upon a heterosexual couple's right to marry; so gay couples should be allowed the same opportunities and freedoms as heterosexual couples."

Proposition 9: "…would increase spending on California's criminal justice system significantly, while exacerbating the problem of prison overcrowding."

Proposition 10: "…would remove $10 billion dollars from the state general fund over the next generation without creating any significant, lasting infrastructure. In fact, most of the money would be spent on rebates for the purchase of new vehicles that will not necessarily be used in California."

Proposition 11: "…the concept of an independent commission to draw boundaries for state lawmakers is likely to reduce the odds of abuse and holds the promise of increasing competitive pressures for elected office. This could result in a more dynamic and responsive government. Furthermore, by protecting 'communities of interest' it would also end the practice of gerrymandering obscure district boundaries that confuse voters and undermine the relationship between the public and their elected representatives. At a bare minimum, it would introduce an element of objectivity to political boundaries that is painfully absent today."

Proposition 12: "…exploits a sympathetic group-veterans-so that lawmakers do not have to include funding for Cal-Vet in the normal budget appropriations bill. This allows legislators and the governor to circumvent their responsibility to make the difficult program trade-offs and prioritizations they were elected to make."

Full Reports Online

California General Election: Voter Guide is online at www.reason.org/pb71_voter_guide.pdf.

Drowning in Debt: Bond Measures Threaten California's Already Precarious Debt Situation is online at www.reason.org/pb73_bonds.pdf.

The Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act: Prison Overcrowding, Parole and Sentencing Reform (Proposition 5) is online at www.reason.org/pb74_prop5.pdf.

Redistricting in California: Competitive Elections and the Effects of Proposition 11 is online at www.reason.org/pb72_redistricting_prop11.pdf.

About Reason Foundation

Reason Foundation is a nonprofit think tank dedicated to advancing free minds and free markets. Reason Foundation produces respected public policy research on a variety of issues and publishes the critically acclaimed Reason magazine and its website www.reason.com. For more information, please visit www.reason.org.

Contact

Chris Mitchell, Director of Communications, Reason Foundation, (310) 367-6109
Adrian Moore, Vice President of Research, Reason Foundation, (661) 477-3107



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