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How Does California’s Tax System Work?

Includes our first original animation on California's tax system!

Taxes. Not too many folks like paying ‘em, and even fewer understand what they’re actually paying for. In November, California voters will decide on two major competing tax measures – Proposition 30 and 38. The initiatives are both intended to shield public schools from devastating budget cuts, although they each propose to do so in pretty different ways. Deciding which path makes the most sense requires first understanding the basics of California’s tax system. Pretty enticing, huh? Well, before we lose your attention to the latest gripping cat flick on YouTube, at least take a quick look at this animation produced by freelancer Josh Kurz. It’s a surprisingly digestible primer on a topic that’s admittedly pretty freakin’ dry … but one that’s also got some pretty huge real life consequences for almost all of us.
(Scroll down to see another KQED video and detailed summaries on both propositions)

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Genetically Modified What? What’s the deal with GMOs (and should we know when were eating them)?

Embedded video and radio clips

This November, Californians will vote on Proposition 37, which proposes adding labels to food products containing ingredients hat have been genetically modified.

Genetically modified what?

Yeah – this is about as confusing as it gets, and there’s weird science behind the whole thing, which makes it even harder to understand for us normal folk. Continue reading

Prop 29: Should Smoking in California Be More Expensive?

Includes: article, interactive map, radio and video clips

Dr. Jaus/Flickr

That’s the underlying question that Proposition 29 poses to California voters, who go to the polls in June to decide if smokers should pay an extra buck in taxes for a pack of cigarettes.

What would Prop 29 do?

If passed, the measure – called the California Cancer Research Act – would add an additional dollar to a pack of cigs and other tobacco products sold in California (amounting to five more cents/cigarette). It would more than double the current tobacco tax rate – the most dramatic increase in the state’s history.

The estimated $735 million (annually) in new revenue (adjusted for tax revenue lost from the projected decrease in sales) would go toward a special fund administered by an appointed committee to support research on cancer and other tobacco-related diseases, as well as prevention and enforcement initiatives. None of it would be used for medical treatment. Continue reading

What’s A Park Worth?

INCLUDES: ARTICLE; KQED AUDIO CLIPS

Natural-Bridges State Beach, near Santa Cruz (credit: Ca. Dept. of Parks and Recreation)

“These state parks are our cathedrals. This is what defines us as Californians to the rest of the world.  But they are not cheap to run. And so I think Californians need to decide whether it’s worth it to them to save these parks … I think it begs a much deeper question of what we value as Californians.
– Ruth Coleman, California state parks director

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Why Facebook Is Going Public (and how it made one graffiti artist rich)

INCLUDES: ARTICLE; KQED AUDIO; PBS NEWSHOUR VIDEO

Facebook CEO announces his company's plan to go public (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

When Facebook filed for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in February, Mark Zuckerberg wrote a public letter outlining Facebook’s mission: to bring the world closer together. With the additional investment money that an IPO would bring, he explained, Facebook would have the resources to better reach that goal.
Or, to put it another way, when Facebook goes public, it stands to make a whole lot of money. IPO’s can be a good way for companies
to have access to a lot of funding fast, Continue reading

Super PACs: Political Fundraising On Steroids

Includes NPR audio and PBS video

Watch Outside Super PACs Poised to Dominate 2012 Spending on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

If there’s anything you should remember about U.S. campaign finance law, it’s this:

For almost every set rule, there is most likely a loophole for getting around that rule.

Keeping track of America’s campaign finance laws is really difficult. Why? Continue reading

What’s So Fair About Fair Housing Laws?

INCLUDES: ARTICLE AND KQED AUDIO CLIP

Rick Reinhard/Flickr

In the 1960’s Congress began enacting a series of civil rights laws intended to (among other things) protect certain classes of home-buyers or renters from discriminatory housing practices,  and to help increase the supply and access of housing for lower income and underrepresented populations. Continue reading