A Supporter and Opponent Explain Prop. 31’s ‘Community Strategic Action Plans’


Sacramento Capital. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Proposition 31 might win the battle for the longest and most complex ballot measure. At more than 8,000 words Prop. 31 is an opus to California Forward‘s attempt to restructure and rebuild California’s government from the core. To do that it outlines nine main changes:

  1. Establishes a two-year budget cycle
  2. Permits the governor to make unilateral budget cuts during fiscal emergencies
  3. Requires all bills to be published three days prior to a vote
  4. Forces lawmakers to identify a funding source for new programs or tax deductions
  5. Requires performance reviews
  6. Defines specific goals for the state budget and all local government budgets
  7. Allows local governments to establish “Community Strategic Action Plans”
  8. Allocates $200 million a year in sales tax to those plans
  9. Allows local governments to transfer local property taxes among themselves.

Whew, that’s a lot.

But one component of the initiative is particularly opaque: What are these “Community Strategic Action Plans”? What are they supposed to do? KQED called California Forward’s Executive Director Kristin Connelly to ask her specifically about the plans. California Forward wrote and sponsored Prop. 31. Continue reading

Locals React to Anti-Soda Tax Campaign in Richmond

By Andrew Stelzer

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(Rex Sorgatz: Flickr)

(Rex Sorgatz: Flickr)

From the get-go, the face of Richmond’s proposed tax on sugar sweetened beverages has been city Councilmember Jeff Ritterman. “If we’re successful we’ll make history,” he tells me.

Ritterman is a retired cardiologist who got the council to put the penny-per-ounce tax on next month’s ballot. He says improving the health of the local community isn’t the only goal.

“Once the sugar-sweetened beverage taxes become ubiquitous — and I’m pretty sure they will, it’s just a question of when,” he says, “if we are victorious it will happen a lot sooner.”

But the health issues behind the tax have taken a back seat to questions about how the city will spend the money the tax would raise.

The main argument from Measure N opponents is that the tax proceeds won’t necessarily go to fight obesity. While there is an accompanying measure before voters to direct the money to obesity-fighting efforts, the money raised would go into the city’s general fund. Billboards and flyers all over town — paid for by the American Beverage Association, a soft drink lobbying group — drive that “general fund” message home.

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Archive: KQED Public Radio’s ‘Forum’ Examines 10 State Propositions

Michael Krasny in studio

Through the studio glass: Michael Krasny hosts KQED's daily call-in show "Forum."

Here at KQED, we take elections pretty seriously. It’s a time when our mission of educating the public comes to a head — the messages coming from the campaigns are unrelenting and taken as a whole can present a confusing picture. So helping you cast an informed vote is our aim.

That was the philosophy behind our state proposition guide. Some people, however, prefer listening to reading. For those folks we present a complete archive of Forum’s 2012 state proposition shows. Some are an hour long, some are half an hour, but all present views from both sides and include community input we received via calls, emails, Facebook and Twitter. So sit back, turn up your speakers, and take a listen…


Prop. 30: Gov. Brown’s Tax Increase for Education, Public Safety

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Group That Gave Huge Donation Against Brown Tax Measure Led By Anti-Union Activist

by Will Evans, California Watch

The Arizona group that dumped $11 million into California’s ballot measure melee this week is led by a Republican activist who calls labor unions “the parasite that is killing our jobs.”

Robert Graham, a candidate for Arizona Republican Party chairman, heads Americans for Responsible Leadership, a little-known group that delivered $11 million to a committee fighting a tax increase on November’s ballot and supporting a measure that would weaken the political clout of unions. The money will either go toward opposing Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax measure, or supporting Proposition 32, which would ban the use of payroll-deducted dues for political purposes.

Americans for Responsible Leadership was formed last year by three Arizona businessmen, including Graham. The other directors are Eric Wnuck, who ran an unsuccessful campaign in the Republican primary in a 2010 congressional race, and Steve Nickolas, a bottled water entrepreneurContinue reading

Explaining the Difference Between Props 30 and 38, Dueling Tax Initiatives

Teachers at Angeles Mesa Elementary School in Los Angeles review voter information on Proposition 38 during a recent teacher union meeting. (Ana Tintocalis: KQED)

Teachers at Angeles Mesa Elementary School in Los Angeles review voter information on Proposition 38 during a recent teacher union meeting. (Ana Tintocalis: KQED)

Education advocates in California say public schools will either sink or swim based on the outcome of two competing tax initiatives on the November ballot — Proposition 30 and Proposition 38. While both aim to protect students from more devastating budget cuts, they go about it in very different ways.

To better understand what is at stake for California’s public schools, I started off by visiting the headquarters of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest district in the state.

LAUSD has had to cut about half a billion dollars from its budget every year for the past five years because of the state’s money problems. Class sizes have swollen to more than 40 students; the school year was cut by five instructional days, and teachers have lost their jobs.

The person behind every difficult financial decision is Megan Reilly, the district’s Chief Financial Officer.

“The biggest challenge for Governor Brown is convincing [voters] that state government can be trusted to spend their tax dollars wisely and effectively.”

Her office is perched on the 26th floor of a skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles. Stacks of papers and financial reports are piled on and around her desk. Although she has a sweeping view of the city, she can’t take her eyes off of a series of large monthly calendars on the wall.

November 6th, Election Day, is circled, underlined and highlighted.

“I don’t think you can not think about it,” Reilly says. “We’re just in limbo because everything is critical about what is going to happen at the November election.”

Reilly views the election as a watershed moment for schools, because if voters do not approve Prop. 30 or Prop. 38, L.A. Unified — along with most other districts in California — will be pushed further down the road toward insolvency. Continue reading

Richmond Residents Weigh in on Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax

Yes on N, Richmond soda tax mural

Yes on Richmond soda tax mural, by artists Mike Rich with Chris Khali of "Dunk the Junk." (Photo: Kristin Farr)

Two California cities — Richmond in Northern California’s Contra Costa County and El Monte in Los Angeles County — have proposed a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar sweetened beverages, including sodas and energy drinks. The Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes (funded by the American Beverage Association) has spent approximately $3.5 million to defeat the measures. The coalition argues that it’s a tax on the poor, and it will hurt small businesses.

No on N, Richmond soda tax billboard

Argument against the sugar-sweetened beverage tax include that it is a tax on that poor & will hurt small businesses. (Photo: Kristin Farr)

In Richmond, non-profits like Fit For Life and the Richmond Progressive Alliance are urging the community to vote yes on Measure N on November 6th. They argue the tax is a step forward for the city, and that revenue for the taxes can be used to fight childhood obesity.

I visited Richmond Main Street’s Spirit and Soul Festival and the city’s Certified Farmer’s Market to see what some Richmond residents thought about the measure. Most of the people I approached didn’t know about the tax, and many were undecided. Below are three responses from people in support of the proposed tax, and three in opposition.


Keira Chatman-Green:

“I think that it is absolutely ridiculous. If I have a Diet Pepsi and I want a Diet Pepsi, I’m gonna get it. If the soda cost a dollar and then I had to pay a dollar fifty or something to that effect, I’m going to pay it ‘cuz I want a Pepsi. Healthier food is more expensive than junk foods. So I can definitely see if they raise the taxes on junk food and lower the taxes on healthier foods such as vegetables and different fibers and different stuff like that, than that would make more sense. But just taxing junk food alone? Absolutely not. I think that the focus should be on education and children and raising the children, period. And stopping the violence in Richmond. Instead of soda, and chips and cookies.” Continue reading

Prop. 39 Would End Choice of Taxation Method For Out-of-State Companies

By Erik Anderson, KPBS

San Franciscan Tom Steyer spending millions of his own money to support Prop. 39. (Photo: Erik Anderson)

San Franciscan Tom Steyer spending millions of his own money to support Prop. 39. (Photo: Erik Anderson)

San Francisco hedge fund manager Tom Steyer has already fought and won a battle at the California ballot box. In 2010, he helped defeat Proposition 23. That measure would have rolled back California’s landmark global warming law. Now he’s putting $20 million of his own money into passing Proposition 39.

“It’s about tax fairness,” Steyer says. “We are closing a loophole, but all we are asking out-of-state companies to do is to pay taxes on their income exactly the way that we do. And what that will do is bring into the state of California over a billion dollars every single year, and all from companies from out of state.”

The Legislative Analyst’s Office has estimated that’s the amount of revenue the tax-change will generate. The LAO also said that “while only a small portion of corporations are multistate, [they] pay the vast majority of the state’s corporate income taxes.”

The history of Prop 39 is rooted in a change in the tax code that the California Legislature made in 2009. That’s when lawmakers gave companies a choice of how to pay their corporate taxes, says San Diego State University business professor Steve Gill.

“For years and years and years, we had a long tradition of using a three-factor apportionment formula,” Gill says, “which meant we look at three different factors that are economic drivers of income: sales, property and payroll.” Continue reading

Anti-Tax Advocates Angry Over CSU Tuition Threat

By Ben Adler

Anti-tax advocates are calling foul over Cal State University’s stance on Governor Brown’s tax increase measure, Proposition 30.

The trustees voted yesterday to tie future tuition costs to Prop 30’s fate.

If Governor Jerry Brown’s tax measure passes, the CSU system will roll back a previously approved 9 percent increase. But If Prop 30 fails, the university will leave it in place – and tack on an additional five percent.

Meanwhile, a draft letter from CSU reportedly tells applicants that Prop 30 will affect how many students the university can enroll. That has Jon Coupal  with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association threatening a lawsuit.

“To specifically reference Prop 30 and actually try to predict what happens if Prop 30 passes or does not pass is going beyond an informational activity and gets into the realm of political advocacy,” he says.

A CSU spokesman says the letter is legal.

Gov. Brown Makes a Case for Prop. 30

Gov. Jerry Brown addresses questions from the San Jose Mercury News editorial board. (Image: UStream)

Gov. Jerry Brown addresses questions from the San Jose Mercury News editorial board. (Image: UStream)

Gov. Jerry Brown sat down with the San Jose Mercury News editorial board today to discuss his ballot proposition to raise taxes for education. If the measure fails, automatic trigger cuts will mean billions cut from K-12, community colleges and public universities in California.

Brown started off with some political history — a little bit of ‘how did we get into this mess — for the assembled Mercury News reporters and editors.

“If you go back to Pete Wilson,” Brown began, “we had a big recession, he had to cut massively and raise taxes massively. And then Davis rode up the high tech bubble and rode it down. That created its own problems and then Arnold came in and he rode the mortgage bubble up and also rode it down. And so that we are caught in waves of prosperity and misfortune. And in that process, the problem has been compounded because the Democrats and Republicans as they try to negotiate a balance, the Democrats want to get some more benefits and the Republicans counter with tax breaks. That then compounds the problem, because you have more spending and less revenue.” Continue reading