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By Tom Cushing

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...

Uploaded: Sep 19, 2012

Anything I could write about the current state of the Presidential campaign would feel like piling-on, and the major issue in the US Senate derby seems to be whether the Republican (10 points if you can name her, answers below) will out-duel the Libertarian (fifteen points) for 'Place' and 'Show.' The Proposition commercials are just now beginning their routinely deceptive runs, so this is a good time to review the guts of a few of the more prominent among them on the statewide ballot.

Prop 30 is Gov. Brown's tax increase plan, proposed after 4-year cuts of some $__ (20 points) from the annual state budget. Recession-era collections are not keeping pace with expenditures; this referendum is made necessary by an earlier statute that requires a 2/3 legislative majority to raise taxes, which the Dems have been unable to muster in the face of unified GOP opposition. It calls for a seven-year marginal rate increase on incomes over $250K, a four-year 1/4% hike in sales tax rates -- and it earmarks those new funds (about $7B/year, give-or-take) for education and public safety.

Thus, its generally progressive nature is structured to appeal to his base, and it will undoubtedly raise the spectre Silicon Valley and Hollywood packing-up, and moving to Texas. Predictably, it is supported by public sector unions and opposed by the Howard Jarvis taxpayers organization.

Raising taxes is never easy; the task has been made harder by the State Parks Department having squirreled-away some $50 million in the face of facility closures (25 points if you know why they did it -- I have never seen an explanation). As someone who Has seen the toll taken by prior cuts on a profoundly disabled relative, I'm aware of the human costs of some other, non-tax alternatives.

Prop 31 sets-up a two-year budget cycle, requires performance goals for all state programs and provides a mechanism for local governments to opt-out of state mandated services. It is supported by the state GOP, but opposed by Dems, the Tea Party and something out of the OC called The latter claims that the 2-year cycle is irrelevant, the goals do not require voter approval, and the opt-out tends to favor cities over 'burbs. Stay tuned.

Prop 32 would forbid both companies and unions from payroll deductions for political purposes. While I am generally in-favor of Anything that weans money away from the political process, I just have to note that the apparent balance here is somewhat attenuated by the fact that member monies are the sole source of union income, while corporations have customers to supply revenue -- perhaps that difference is what the philosopher ___ (fifteen points) had in mind when he wrote about The Law's "majestic equality?"

Finally this week, there's Prop 34, which would eliminate Capital Punishment, commute current such sentences to Life-without-Parole, and establish a $100 million fund to assist law enforcement in solving rapes and murders. That one-time amount comes close to offsetting the annual costs of maintaining the current system, according to a prominent recent study be a supporter and an opponent of the law.

The death penalty has always been popular with voters hereabouts, so sponsors as disparate as a former San Quentin Warden, the author of CA's current capital statute and the CA State Bar President have their work cut-out for them. I started these columns with a personal analysis of the issue, which I think fails both public policy and economic tests. So far ___ (twenty points) death-row convicts have been later exonerated. It will be interesting to watch the tacks taken by both supporters and opponents, this time around.

There are other significant Props this time, on other issues like human trafficking, Three-strikes, food labeling on genetically modified food-like substances, and State Senate redistricting. Those will be future RC subjects, as time and circumstance allow.

Answers: Elizabeth Emken, Republican, and Gail Lightfoot, Libertarian; $56 billion in claimed cuts; no earthly idea what they had in mind for that $50 million secret fund; Anatole France: "The law in its majestic equality forbids both rich and poor men from sleeping under bridges, begging in the street and stealing bread"; 138 exonerations, at least as of last year. How'd you do?

Note to Madame Editor: I created this column in the website blank, itself -- and only deleted the draft by accident once. Let's see if this tactic avoids the weird punctuation problem...