Endorsements 2012: State ballot measures - Page 5

End the death penalty -- Yes on 34. No on 35 saves our sexworkers. GMO food gets a label when you vote Yes on 37

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Yes, the state should raise income taxes on the wealthy. Yes, some of that money should go to education. But this is not the optimal way to go about it.

Because nobody but Munger and her pals vetted the measure, it's got problems. For starters, it's not a tax increase on the rich — it's a tax increase for just about everybody. If you make more than $7,300 a year, your state income tax would go up. Granted, not by much: The sliding scale starts at 0.4 percent (about $30 a year for the very low end of the scale, and the wealthiest will pay much more) but still: the tax burden in this state (with its high sales-tax rates) falls disproportionately on the poor and middle class, and Munger's measure should have exempted all but the top earners. And it's got a popular, but troubling distribution scheme — between 60 and 85 percent of the estimated $10 billion a year in new revenue will go to K-12 education. The schools need the money — but so do cities and counties who pay for public health, affordably housing, public safety and a lot of other priorities.

But the question facing the voters isn't whether Munger is a self-serving brat who went her own way on this, or whether there are flaws in the measure. It's whether the state ought to raise taxes to pay for education. With all the duly noted reservations, the answer to that question has to be yes.

PROPOSITION 39

TAX TREATMENT FOR MULTISTATE BUSINESSES

YES

Again, an imperfect law, sponsored by an imperfect billionaire that seeks to solve a problem better addressed in the state Legislature. In this case, though, the Legislature's tried to address it, but the recalcitrant Republicans haven't let it happen.

Prop. 39 would change a loophole in the state's tax code that helps multistate businesses to avoid state taxes. In essence, the current law lets companies choose whether to base their state tax liability on in-state sales or a combination of sales, employment, and property. Companies with a lot of out-of-state employees are able to reap huge tax breaks — if anything the current law encourages outsourcing.

Prop. 39, sponsored and bankrolled by hedge-fund billionaire Thomas Steyer, would mandate that all companies use the single in-state sales factor. The new revenue to California: $1 billion a year. It's more fair, it creates the right incentives to keep jobs and equipment in the state, and it cuts a hole in the deficit.

VOTE YES ON 39.

PROPOSITION 40

REDISTRICTING REFERENDUM

YES

This referendum challenged the California Senate districts that were created early this year by the Citizen Redistricting Commission, an independent body that voters created as an alternative to the previous practice of letting politicians draw their own legislative districts after the decennial census. Those new districts aren't perfect — indeed, San Francisco was placed in a single Senate district instead of the pair we had — but the process that created them was widely lauded as "open, transparent, and nonpartisan," as the California Supreme Court ruled in rejecting a challenge to the districts. That ruling has caused the proponents of this measure — the side urging a "no" vote, which would invalidate the districts and let a judicial panel redraw them, whereas a "yes" vote upholds the existing districts — to drop their campaign and accept the commission's results. Vote yes.