Professors Discuss Propositions

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By Sharyne Merritt

The propositions are even more confusing this year than usual (hard to believe but perhaps another sign of how bad 2020 is).  With a PhD in Political Science and 15 years as a professor of marketing (selling presidents or propositions is the same as selling soap), I take elections seriously.  I spent several hours researching each prop (recommend https://ballotpedia.org/California_2020_ballot_propositions) and discussing them with two other retired professors.  
 
(Full disclosure two of us are life long Democrats and one calls himself a “Rockefeller Republican”; all three of us are voting for Biden/Harris.)  We found some very tricky elements and didn’t agree on everything, so I’d like to share our findings in the hopes that readers will give them serious thought.
 
14 Issues $5.5 billion in bonds for state stem cell research
2 yes – cutting edge medical research is more needed than ever; federal funding is limited; the proposition has a very impressive list of supporters including American Association for Cancer Research, American Diabetes Association, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, ALS Association, Alzheimer’s Los Angeles, Arthritis Foundation, Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California, and San Francisco AIDS Foundation
1 no:  taxpayers don’t need more state debt
 
15 Requires commercial and industrial properties to be taxed based on market value not prop 13 and dedicates revenue to state government, schools, and local government.  Residential stays the same.  Farms won’t have increased tax on land but will on buildings
2 yes: industrial properties are currently grossly under-taxed; a fair assessment will generate money for local governments and schools.  While it is unfortunate that the taxes will harm small and minority owned businesses that will have the tax passed along, local services and education of many children creates more positive impacts for more people. 
1 no: increase in taxes will be passed along to renters including small and minority owned businesses that don’t own property.  
 
16 Permits consideration of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, education, or contracting consider 
3 yes: This is not about quotas; it just lets race, sex, etc be one factor of many if desired by government or universities.  A study out of UC Berkeley found minorities were hurt by the previous elimination of affirmative action.  Also, local governments might want to consider bringing in people of different backgrounds when hiring to get different perspectives
 
17 Felons on parole get the right to vote
3 yes – no brainer - they were good enough to rejoin society.  
 
18 17-year-olds who will turn 18 by Election Day can vote in primaries
3 yes: most 17-year-olds probably won’t pay enough attention to differences among primary candidates, but hell, most 40 year olds don’t either.
 
19 Changes tax assessment transfers and inheritance rules:  lets people over 55 (not 65) move 3 times to more expensive properties and take their old prop 13 tax assessment with them
3 no  - passes burden too much to younger people; why give people over 55 3 slices of the cake
 
20 Makes changes to policies related to criminal sentencing charges, prison release, and DNA collection 
3 no –moves several misdemeanors to felonies; opposed by ACLU  
 
21 Expands local governments' power to use rent control 
3 no –doesn’t create affordable housing; will hold rents down but discourage building; opposed by Governor Newsom
 
22 Considers app-based drivers to be independent contractors, not subject to benefits of employees
3 no – gig workers should have health insurance and unemployment compensation; superior court already held they were employees; this would make them a separate category where they would be exempt from benefits; it is funded by companies that stand to gain – Uber, Lyft, DoorDash
 
23  Requires physician on-site at dialysis clinics
3 no – why is this on the ballot – it’s a legislative issue thrown in our laps.  Opposed by American Medical Association and American Nurses Association/California; would take doctors out of places they are needed.  Also, if something goes wrong with dialysis you need a specially trained nurse or technician, not a doctor. 
 
24 Expands the provisions of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) 
3 no – While this ostensibly adds protections, the ACLU opposes it and we are betting that the ACLU lawyers are more capable of analyzing this than we are
 
25 Replaces cash bail with risk assessments for suspects awaiting trial
3 no – while this seems like a no brainer – rich people tend to stay out of jail while awaiting trial while poor people who cannot come up with bail often languish in jail, the ACLU opposes it because replacing bail with a non-transparent algorithm can be equally or more biased.
 

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a-1603377313 Oct 22, 2020 07:35 AM
Professors Discuss Propositions

Totally agree with those recommending ballotpedia or the like. This is an op-ed, not an analysis of ballot measures. This amounts to a group of people giving you their opinions of how to vote. You are the only one who can assess how each of these issues will affect you and the society that you want to live in. It is all of our responsibilities to educate ourselves, not to rely on someone else who claims to know the right answer.

Simpleton Oct 22, 2020 10:26 AM
Professors Discuss Propositions

Related to prop 15, commercial landlords will not pay the tax increase...their tenants will in almost all cases. Here are some local facts: My Goleta business is located in a light industrial business park with multiple tenants that occupy offices of 10,000-150,000 square foot (SF). The landlord is one of the largest in the area and they've owned the business park for many decades. Our leases are NNN, meaning that in addition to the base rent we pay a commensurate amount for operating and maintenance expenses based on the square footage of our office. Yes, this means the landlord passes on 100% of the property tax expenses to the tenants. Today my business pays about $2.30 per SF per year for property taxes (again, in addition to the lease and many other operating expenses that are passed on to us related to the NNN term). For calendar year 2022 we have budgeted for a 2x increase for taxes if Prop 15 passes. If this passes I will likely move to a smaller facility and/or reduce headcount. Me and my neighbors, as well as others in the business community, talk often about how Prop 15 will affect our businesses. I'm not the only one reaching the same conclusion. Good luck to everyone with a commercial lease.

PitMix Oct 22, 2020 11:19 AM
Professors Discuss Propositions

Prop 15 has a phased implementation period, right? So no matter what happens you will not be hit with a full property tax bill the 1st year. When did NNN leases become the norm? Maybe they can become the exception.

Simpleton Oct 22, 2020 11:44 AM
Professors Discuss Propositions

NNN commercial leases have been in place for many, many decades and they will remain the norm as far as anyone can tell. Also, commercial leases are generally long (3-10+ years), so there's no option to renegotiate or break the lease. Sure, there is a phase approach through 2025 but no idea what it will appraise for. And the new appraisal might increase taxes 2x more, or 4x more. Who knows? You should chat with a small business owner sometime...it is incredibly hard to make a profit year after year and the expenses will blow your mind. I do it for the challenge and because I enjoy working with the many people I employee. Prop 15 will just add to the struggle.

citizenSB Oct 22, 2020 12:37 PM
Professors Discuss Propositions

If this passes there will be more until prop 13 is completely taken down.
Next will be spilt room for 2nd homes, then for inherited homes, then for rental properties, and finally for owner occupied homes.
We have owned our home for 27 years, without any improvements that would increase our property tax, yet it has has almost doubled from 27 years ago. 2% a year increase doubles in 35 years, AND we have 6 school bond we are paying for and expecting more.
The taxes I am paying after 27 years is only 20% less than if we just bought the house.
I am sure this is the same with commercial property as well.

dukemunson Oct 22, 2020 01:14 PM
Professors Discuss Propositions

Prop 15 is ridiculous. Raise the property tax by a fraction on all commercial properties to raise the money. Having every commercial property be re-appraised is just wildly dumb and wasteful. The last thing we need to do is hire dozens of additional auditors and tax agents. Increase the property tax slightly on all commercial buildings and you add the revenue and cut out the ridiculous need for an additional army of tax accessors, who of course would need office space, and supervisors, and cars and pensions and every other thing that adds up to millions per year when it simply isn't needed. This idea of adding wrinkles and additionally auditing headaches to our tax code is ridiculous and wasteful.

Babycakes Oct 22, 2020 01:23 PM
Professors Discuss Propositions

Isn't this basically what happened to Robert Bernstein? New owner comes in with monthly payments and taxes much higher than the previous owner. New owner needs to raise rents as to where they are not losing money. I think those who are renting rooms/garages/closets will raise their rent if their taxes go up. The real losers? Renters.

hehe320 Oct 22, 2020 01:42 PM
Professors Discuss Propositions

About proposition 16, there are multiple studies with different conclusions, the one out of UC Berkeley is just one of them which used many undisclosed data. I wonder if it's the best decision to simply use the race card here without a deeper analysis why some groups are underrepresented? for examples, is it more related to poverty or unemployment? Affirmative action type of concept can be used to help minorities, it was used to limit or deny access for minority too (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_quota). How do we know it won't be misused or abused to target certain groups?

PitMix Oct 22, 2020 04:06 PM
Professors Discuss Propositions

I try to look at things from a common sense angle. If minorities are 50% of our State, then on average they should be 50% of our college students, UC and Cal State. If they aren't, then it probably has to do with lack of opportunity, bad schools, no resources to hire tutors and test preparers, lack of support at home because parents are always working, etc. This has to be addressed by providing additional opportunities to these group. The last thing is- these "less-qualified" kids admitted to the UCs historically graduated at the same rates as the "more qualified" students. Just like those students admitted to the UCs as fake athletes. So the standards we are using to "qualify" people don't appear to be very useful.

Sail380 Oct 22, 2020 04:28 PM
Professors Discuss Propositions

How about the close to 20% foreign students at UCSB. The UC system recruits rich foreigners to take the place of deserving minority's.

Voice of Reason Oct 22, 2020 04:30 PM
Professors Discuss Propositions

I'm just a white male so what do I know, but if we keep categorizing people by race how are we ever going to see past race?

a-1603399634 Oct 22, 2020 01:47 PM
Professors Discuss Propositions

No on 15, but keep exploring property tax reform. Too many exemptions were carved out for political favor well after the initial Prop 13 was passed. Reform public expenses first to take the pressure off raising taxes in the first place. Convert all public pensions to defined-contribution pensions only. No more defined-benefit public pensions. Then eliminate the "family home transfer at death" property tax exemption, unless a family member continues to reside in that property full time. Prop 15 is way too one sided - all gain for the government employee unions only, and no benefit for anyone else. It has nothing to do with reforming anything. Hold out for real reform; not one more government union cash grab.

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