2018 Midterm Elections: What We Think – California Ballot Propositions

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Propositions 1, 2, & 10: The band aid props that are certainly better than nothing

California is in a housing crisis. While the state is home to some of the country’s richest as well as poorest counties, the average rent for a California studio apartment is $1,680 a month, $618 higher than the national average. In Riverside, the average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment is $1,431 —  slightly lower than the statewide average; however, that price still requires an income of over $61,000 a year. A worker earning the minimum wage of $10.50 an hour, 40 hours a week, in Riverside earns just $21,840 a year, hardly more than a third of the required income.  Furthermore, the National Low-income Coalition has reported that the minimum income a worker has to earn in order to rent a two-bedroom home in California without paying more than the recommended 30% of their-income is an astonishing $30.92 an hour, nearly three times as high as well.

Workers subsisting on minimum wage have few, if any, reasonable options for housing in California. For individuals that rely on low-wage work, the exorbitantly high costs of housing will absorb any leftover money that would normally be left for investing, saving for retirement or education or preparing for a medical emergency. And while most workers in California obviously do not earn the minimum wage, an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office of California has indicated that 30-35 percent of all workers in Riverside county earn less than $12.50 an hour. The state of California has a disproportionately high number of low-wage earning individuals and a disproportionately high average cost of housing. As a result, the state has to take steps to improve conditions and opportunities for these individuals.

Three very similar answers to this crisis come from California propositions 1, 2, and 10. Proposition 1 would authorize the state to seek a $4 billion bond (financed through the state’s general fund) to fund housing programs, with $1 billion of the total going specifically towards veteran housing programs. The specific pathways of the money would be toward the construction or renovation of general housing, housing communities near transportation sites, assisting in down payments for low-income homeowners and loan assistance to veterans for their housing.


“A serious fix to California’s housing crisis needs to come sooner or later, but meanwhile, voting yes on propositions 1, 2 and 10 can certainly help patch up some of the crisis’ biggest scars.”


Proposition 2 would authorize the state to issue a $2 billion bond for the state’s No Place Like Home program, which builds and renovates housing for individuals with mental illnesses that are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The proposition also clearly outlines that the funds for the bond would come out of the state’s mental health budget.

Proposition 10 would repeal a 1995 law known as the Costa-Hawkins Rental Act, and codify state court precedent that landlords must receive a fair rate of return into law. The effect of repealing the Costa-Hawkins Rental Act would be simply to allow city governments to enact rent control regulations on residences that were built after 1995, allow rent control on single-family homes and condominiums and cities to impose vacancy control, in which the rent for a unit remains capped after a tenant moves out. These three actions are currently prohibited by the law.

Granting cities increased flexibility to come up with local solutions and regulations to their own rental and housing challenges is a smart move, especially in a state where wealth and housing costs vary so widely. Modest rent control regulations, tailored by individual cities to tackle their own challenges, can go a long ways in protect vulnerable renters, especially against sudden surge in rent pricing in a state where housing costs continue to grow so much faster than-incomes. And although the economics of rent control indicate that a price ceiling will decrease the supply of newer housing units, research has shown moderate rent control to have a negligible effect on the construction of new housing.

Neither propositions 1, 2 or 10 will fix the endemic problems of California’s housing crisis. Demand to live in California, especially metropolitan areas, is overwhelming, and a shortage of space leads to exorbitantly high costs, even for individuals who need to live nearby just to get to work. That being said, propositions 1 and 2 will directly increase the supply of housing in the state, particularly to the most vulnerable, thereby lowering costs. Proposition 10 won’t do much to change the supply of housing, but it will keep the state’s renting environment more stable and will give working, lower and middle-income individuals and families a much better shot at being able to afford the next month’s rent. A serious fix to California’s housing crisis needs to come sooner or later, but meanwhile, voting yes on propositions 1, 2 and 10 can certainly help patch up some of the crisis’ biggest scars.

Proposition 3: Under other circumstances, a yes vote would be tempting

Proposition 3 is what Californians hate about our state government and ballot proposition process. $9 billion in bonds towards water fixes, environmental projects, and infrastructure assistance for the struggling Imperial Valley sound too good be ignored, but the proposition would fail to provide a meaningful fix to our water shortages, lacks even the most cursory levels of financial oversight and essentially asks taxpayers to subsidize private, local and federal projects that have no business receiving specific statewide public funds.

The largest amount, $2.5 billion, would go towards watershed projects that likely are needed in the Valley, yet those projects and the restoration of those areas is managed by the farmers that work there in addition to a federal government irrigation program.


“The narrow benefit of this project is perhaps best reflected by the fact that nearly every major editorial board of major newspapers in the state has urged a “no” vote on Proposition 3, while the Fresno Bee is the only one to recommend a “yes” vote.”


$750 million would be dedicated to repairing the Friant-Kern Canal in the San Joaquin Valley, which has been damaged by the overpumping of aquifers. Most Californians can probably agree that these repairs are necessary; however, it also goes that most Californians would expect the beneficiaries of the project to finance it, or at least the very agencies and operations that are responsible for it.

The most tempting portion of the proposition is the dedication of an additional $750 million toward safe drinking water and wastewater treatment programs for smaller towns in the Central Valley, whose residents primarily earn lower-incomes. This benefit’s attachment to the rest of proposition however, more than cancels out any positive effects to be found in the proposition as a whole.

Proposition 3 is essentially little more than a request for a bond for and by Central Valley interests, both public and private. While many of the effects may be desirable, the proposition puts money in the wrong places. The narrow benefit of this project is perhaps best reflected by the fact that nearly every major editorial board of major newspapers in the state has urged a no vote on Proposition 3, while the Fresno Bee is the only one to recommend a yes vote. The Highlander News board is adding its name to the first list.

Proposition 6: A loss for taxpayers means a win for California

Proposition 6 is one of the most divisive California election decisions in decades. It calls for the repeal of 2017’s Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), which increased the base gasoline product excise tax rate by 12 cents a gallon and increased the diesel sales tax by 4 percent. It also attached a transportation improvement fee ranging from $25 to $175 a year for all vehicles, with the exception of zero-emission vehicles, which instead will pay a $100 fee each year.

The bill is expected to raise $4.6 billion in 2018, and roughly $5.1 billion within two years. Under state constitution requirements, at least of two-thirds of the revenue will go directly toward highway and road repairs, and the rest will go to other transportation programs like public transit.

Essentially, the primary function and purpose of SB 1 is to improve, repair and maintain our transportation infrastructure, financed through gasoline and vehicle taxes that essentially serve as user fees. The process seems fair, as those that drive more will be required to pay more toward restoration efforts for statewide infrastructure.

That same principle of fairness however, also backfires with a further analysis of the tax. The gas tax is, fundamentally, a regressive tax (a tax that is levied  equally across all-income groups, meaning the tax absorbs a larger parts of-incomes from less wealthy groups). The tax as regressive by itself is problematic, but the issue is compounded by the fact that lower-income individuals typically consume more gasoline in the first place and tend to have less flexibility to turn to other forms of transportation.

Many higher-income individuals have the ability, or luxury, to live close to their work, live in a bicycle-friendly community, purchase electric or low emissions vehicles or generally just be more selective with their transportation and commute options. Lower or even middle-income individuals, by comparison, don’t enjoy these same luxuries. Many residents of Riverside county, for example, live in Corona or Riverside, but have to drive into the Los Angeles or Orange County areas for work. The imposition of the gas tax isn’t likely to change their behavior or discourage them from buying gasoline since they fundamentally need to make the long drive to their work, and usually can only afford houses out in the area much further away.

In economic terms, gasoline is highly inelastic for these less wealthy individuals, and regardless of how many taxes are imposed on gasoline, they don’t have many alternatives to simply buying it and bearing the burden of the tax.

At the same time, however, California’s infrastructure is crumbling. The American Society of Civil Engineers rated California bridges and transit a C-, and roads a D. Citing general findings, 6.2% of California’s bridges are structurally deficient, with deficiencies in California roads are estimated to cost Californians $61 billion annually due to added congestion, collision, and related problems. Finally, just a shockingly small number, 5.3% of Californians, use public transit to commute to work.


Voting no on Proposition 6 is one of the difficult choices and painful sacrifices we simply have to make.”


The total missing funds for the costs of bringing California’s bridges, roads and transits to A-levels, according to the Society of Civil Engineers, is $238.2 billion. That is an astonishingly high number that very well may be unreachable; however, it clearly illustrates the fundamental state of disarray California roads and infrastructure currently find themselves in.

If California wants to get anywhere close to reaching more acceptable marks on our infrastructure, and save lives, time, money and our air in the process, this state is going to truly need every penny it can get. In the grand scheme of things, SB 1 is a regressive tax, but a minor one at that, and a critical piece of a much larger puzzle.

In addition to bringing desperately needed funding towards our decaying infrastructure, proposition 6 also effectively acts a carbon tax on gasoline products, which, according to 2018 Nobel Prize Winner in Economics William Nordhaus, is the single most effective means of combating the existential risk climate change poses to our planet.

Nordhaus is right, a tax will make gasoline less attractive, and creates incentives for producers to develop models that can avoid or reduce gasoline consumption, while also incentivizing consumers to buy these new models. This effect may take a lot more for many Californians before we all begin purchasing electric vehicles; however, it represents an important step, and more importantly, commitment to getting serious about climate change, one of the greatest threats ever posed to human civilization.

Voting no on Proposition 6 is one of the difficult choices and painful sacrifices we simply have to make. The state of California absolutely needs to do a better job of improving access and use of our incredibly weak public transportation systems to help offset the negative effects on lower-income earners. Regardless of that necessity however, Proposition 6 is too dangerous for our state and our planet. Vote no.

Proposition 7: Let’s save some daylight by keeping our clocks consistent year-round

Everyone hates “spring forward”, when we all lose an hour of sleep in early March every single year because back in March 1918 during the first World War the government decided fiddling with the clocks could help save energy needed for the war effort.

Well, spoiler alert, but its been over an entire century since the U.S. first began to observe daylight savings time and a lot has changed since then. The question of conserving energy during night time vs day time has obscured, and the amount of energy that is conserved is now no longer known, with many studies claiming it actually increases our our energy consumption.


“Even if you’re a college student who cares nothing about politics but likes sleep, this proposition is for you.”


What we do know about this vicious “fall back”, “spring forward” pendulum however, is that having to switch between the two twice every year is miserable. Furthermore, studies have shown that the constant switching, especially when an hour is lost in spring, causes sleep deprivation, takes a toll on mental health, increases workplace injuries and car accidents and decreases productivity at work, among other things. It does however, increase how much money we spend shopping during the Spring and Summer.

Nobody enjoys daylight savings time and it actually has serious, proven negative consequences. Proposition 7, thankfully means that we would express our statewide desire to not push the clocks forward an hour in the Spring, or ever push our clocks back or forward again. Even if you’re a college student who cares nothing about politics but likes sleep, this proposition is for you. Vote yes on Proposition 7.

Proposition 8: An arbitrary and punishing measure that does not look promising

Proposition 8 would use the authority of the state of California to limit the revenues of all kidney dialysis clinics in the state and open up requirements to pay rebates to groups like health insurance companies. The revenue cap for kidney dialysis clinics would be 115 percent of “direct care patient service costs” and “health care quality improvement costs,” essentially meaning most general costs excluding administrative budgets and related spending.

The proposition would mandate that when the revenues of these clinics exceeds the designated revenue cap, they would be required to pay rebates to customers. Some critical caveats, however, are that firstly, governments and medicare are excluded as potential beneficiaries of the rebate, and the payments will go to the source that paid for the treatment, which is almost always the insurance company, not the patient.


“The measure is opposed by nearly every single advocacy group for kidney dialysis patients, including the National Kidney Foundation. This is quite strange, especially when kidney dialysis patients are supposed to be the primary beneficiaries of the ‘Fair Pricing for Dialysis Act.’”


If the measure sounds confusing, that appears to be the intention. An in-the-weeds analysis of proposition 8 is confusing and muddied. Something else that is clear however, is that the measure is opposed by nearly every single advocacy group for kidney dialysis patients, including the National Kidney Foundation. This is quite strange, especially when kidney dialysis patients are supposed to be the primary beneficiaries of the “Fair Pricing for Dialysis Act.”

Proposition 8 carries a lot of reasons indicating that a no vote is the way to go. The measure is based on an arbitrary cap and could end up being incredibly punishing, even to the supposed beneficiaries. Vote no.

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