For now, we are recommending No votes on all the others, most notably on Propositions 30 and 38, two competing measures that will raise sales tax and personal income rates "temporarily," and on Measure B1, a new Transportation Expenditure Plan that would extend a 1/2-cent sales tax in Alameda County by another half-cent virtually forever.
With regard to B1, it not only extends the half-cent sales tax already in place that's set to expire in 2022 -- another "temporary" tax voters were told -- but makes it a full penny until 2042, when the two-thirds majority vote for approval will be dropped to a simple majority to continue the measure in perpetuity. With 10 years yet to go on the original transportation tax, there's plenty of time for the Alameda County Transportation Commission to come back to voters with a new tax plan that includes a valid "sunset" clause, with no in-perpetuity gimmicks included.
Gov. Brown is on the statewide speaking circuit these days to promote Prop. 30, and with good reason. The tax he has championed is not selling well in an economically stressed state with continued high unemployment and reports regularly about companies that are leaving California for lower-tax states. Prop. 30 would increase the sales tax by one-quarter-cent for calendar years 2013-16, increase the maximum 9.3% personal income tax rate in stages to 12.3%, and add another 1% tax on annual incomes over $1 million. Prop. 30 and competing Prop. 38 have no guarantees the extra money will even reach schools, where financial help is needed.
Moving down the ballot:
* Prop. 31: Forces the Legislature to move to a two-year budget. It's a poorly written and contradictory proposition that will lead to lawsuits and confusion instead of reform. Vote No.
* Prop. 33: Changes the rules on how auto insurance companies and their customers deal with each other. Let's let the market drive the policies. Vote No.
* Prop. 37: Requires special labels on 40-70% of all foods currently sold in California if they contain genetically modified ingredients. This would add to labeling, distribution and monitoring costs, which the state's Department of Public Health is handling well. Vote No.
* Prop. 38: Increases personal income tax rates to provide funds for early childhood education programs in the public schools. Again, tax increases would be only "temporary," until 2024 at the latest with the caveat that some of the new money could be used for state debt payments. Vote No.
* Prop. 39: Changes California tax code to require multi-state firms to pay income taxes on their percentage of sales here, with half of the funds raised to go for "clean/efficient energy projects." This would be a $1 billion tax increase leading to more businesses leaving the state. Vote No.
* Measure A1: Levies a $12 parcel tax on Alameda County property owners until 2037 to fund improvements and expansion projects at the Oakland Zoo. Even if you love the zoo, this tax is bad public policy, forcing county taxpayers to pay at least $112 million in Oakland Zoo bills over the next 25 years. Vote No.
* Measure I: This measure just adds more taxes for those of us who live in the college district. It's another "temporary" levy in the form of a $28 parcel tax on owners of single-family homes that will last for six years. Unlike most parcel tax measures, this one doesn't exempt seniors or those living on disability payments. Vote No.