Mountain View Voice

Opinion - October 29, 2010

Our endorsements in local races, ballot measures

Mountain View City Council

Ronit Bryant, Margaret Abe-Koga, Jack Siegel

Measure T phone tax

Vote yes. The city needs to update this levy to include VOIP and other modern technology

Santa Clara Valley Water District board

Vote for Brian Schmidt

Foothill De Anza Parcel Tax

This tax sunsets after six years and will help the district make up for the $20 million in revenue lost over the last two years.

County Measure A for Healthy Kids

This $29 parcel tax (not $39 as stated Oct. 15) supports a worthy cause — buying health insurance for kids who can't afford it. Our concern is that the cost should be funded out of county general fund revenue, not a parcel tax. Vote no.

The Voice recommends

The Voice has analyzed selected state propositions that will be on the Nov. 2 ballot and has taken the following positions.

Proposition 23: Vote No

Suspends air-pollution-control law AB-32 until unemployment drops to 5.5 percent for a full year.

What do the companies Valero Energy, Occidental Petroleum, Tesoro Corp., Tower Energy Group and World Oil Corporation all have in common?

They're all big oil companies based in Texas.

And they've all donated more than $100,000 to put California's Proposition 23 on the ballot.

The oil companies are calling it the "California jobs initiative," but Proposition 23 should more accurately be called the "kill AB 32 initiative," — suspending that 2006 legislation until the state lowers its unemployment to a very low 5.5 percent that would likely keep the global warming bill in limbo for years, if not decades. AB 32, or the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, establishes the target of reducing the state's green house gases (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020, through stiffer rules and regulations for the energy industry. California is one of the largest emitters of green house gases in the world, and AB 32 is estimated to reduce our GHG in the next decade by 30 percent.

That Valero Energy, the initiative's biggest funder, has one of the worst environmental records in the state should come as no surprise. Cleaning up its act by 2020 will not be easy on its bottom line. Proponents of Proposition 23 argue that such regulations as those called for by AB 32 would drive industry out of the state — resulting in lost jobs. Opponents counter that the evidence suggests the opposite: that not only is the job loss exaggerated, but the gain in green jobs would more than make up the difference.

To us, such a negligible short-term move could have disastrous long-term consequences to California's environment and the health of its citizens — as well as its economic future in green technology, a particular interest of Silicon Valley.

Proposition 24: Vote Yes

Repeals recent legislation that would allow businesses to lower their tax liability.

The Tax Fairness Act, as it's called by its supporters, is a response to a deal cut during the 2008-09 budget impasse in order to win enough Republican votes to pass a state budget. The deal did three things: it increased the flexibility with which companies can use net-operating losses to reduce taxes; it allowed for multi-state businesses to determine their California taxes based solely on sales in the state (previously, sales, payroll and property value were all factors); and it allowed unitary groups to transfer tax credits amongst the separate businesses within the group.

Essentially, all three provisions result in lower taxes for large companies operating in the state — all to the tune, according to the Legislative Analysis, of $1.3 billion a year when the new rules are fully implemented in 2012. Proposition 24 proponents argue that the deal should never have taken place to begin with and that by repealing the legislation, that $1.3 billion would go back into the state's general fund (and under Proposition 98 guidelines, a significant part of that would go toward education).

Opponents of a repeal of the tax breaks say there would be significant job losses if multi-state businesses went back to being taxed according to payroll (meaning there would be an incentive not to have a lot of employees in California).

Proposition 24 will meaningfully affect, according to supporters, less than 2 percent of the wealthiest multi-state corporations operating in California. It doesn't call for new or higher taxes on these companies; it calls for a repeal of so-called "loopholes" that haven't even fully gone into effect.

Proposition 25: Vote Yes

Changes legislative vote requirement to pass budget and budget-related legislation from two-thirds to a simple majority.

Only Arkansas, Rhode Island and California ask for a two-thirds vote by state legislatures to pass budgets — all other 47 states require simple majorities.

Currently a two-thirds vote is needed to pass the state budget, and to raise taxes. Proposition 25 would change the budget requirement to 50 percent plus one; it would not change the two-thirds needed to raise taxes.

A two-thirds vote is an arbitrary number to weigh so heavily on the workings of any state. Why not 57 percent? Why not 61 percent? It tends to be high enough to make sure small minorities can keep practically anything from getting done. There's an argument that a simple majority gives too much power to the political party in the majority — perhaps 55 percent is a better number that would require an inkling of bipartisan support. Maybe. What we do know is that anything lower than two-thirds would be an improvement at this point.

Proposition 26: Vote No

R Requires certain state and local regulatory fees be approved by two-thirds vote.

Proposition 26 looks to further the two-thirds-approval concept by requiring 66.6 percent of the Legislature or local voters give a thumbs up before the certain regulatory fees can be exacted to make up for the social costs of their businesses. Currently, these types of fees are not considered revenue-generating taxes (and therefore are not subject to two-thirds voter approval) because they're seen as an offset to the societal cost of company — think of hazardous materials fees being levied on a power company, with that money being used by the state to clean up toxic waste sites and promote pollution prevention.

Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Phillip Morris are all big donors to Proposition 26; they and other heavy polluters would save a lot of money if it passes. The Legislative Analysis estimates that over years, it would result in the loss of billions of dollars to California taxpayers who would then be footing the bill to clean up the polluters' messes.

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